Amazon’s personal assistant Alexa may soon be able to determine if a user has a cough or a cold. The company recently filed a patent that will allow Alexa to detect a user’s illness based on a change in his or her voice.
But that’s not all. Once Alexa makes the diagnosis, the assistant may offer suggestions for medicine or a chicken soup recipe — because we all know the end goal is to make money.
Over the summer, Amazon partnered with the UK’s National Health Service, allowing Alexa to diagnose symptoms for medical issues. So, the device has already gotten into the game of playing doctor. Is this the next step?
The patent also states that “a physical or emotional characteristic of a user using a voice input may be desired.” Are you happy? Bored? Scared? Angry? Alexa will be able detect your emotional state. This will be achieved through the sound of a user’s voice—crying, for example.
“Physical conditions such as sore throats and coughs may be determined based at least in part on a voice input from the user, and emotional conditions such as an excited emotional state or a sad emotional state may be determined based at least in part on voice input from a user,” the patent states.
In addition, Alexa may also be able to determine where the user is located based on background noise, his or her nationality based on an accent, and how old he or she is.
All this data will enable Amazon to direct advertising towards its users, reports The Next Web. Feeling sick? Maybe you should get Vicks VapoRub. Oh, and the restaurant down the street has some excellent chicken soup you may enjoy.
Advertisers can take advantage of people’s moods and promote products they may like. Feeling bored? Maybe you need to buy a comedy film, or perhaps a top-selling thriller may be more your speed.
Since it’s currently just a patent, there’s a chance the feature will not come to fruition. And one concern is whether people really want artificial intelligence to track their physical and emotional states. Some might, while others may find it invasive. And, of course, there are always security concerns. With so many companies experiencing hacks these days, do we really want our medical conditions recorded by an AI device?
The tech giant is increasingly adding features to get a pulse on users’ behaviours. For example, Amazon recently launched Whisper in which Alexa responds more softly when asked a question in a lower voice. This seems like a beneficial feature and not one that will bug you to wear a hat outside because you’re prone to winter colds.