Amazon Alexa Illness Detection Patent FI

Amazon Files for Patent to Detect User Illness and Emotional State by Analyzing Voice Data

Amazon yesterday filed a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office related to detecting physical and emotional wellbeing of users based on interactions captured in voice data. The first example in the patent application depicts a user coughing while asking Alexa about being hungry. Alexa responds by suggesting a chicken soup recipe and when refused then offers to order cough drops with one-hour delivery. The voice recognition system is using sounds such as a cough or sniffle to determine if a user is unwell. However, the patent is not limited by these sounds and could be extended to different types of normal speech.

Customizing Interaction by Health and Emotional State

The innovation is labeled as “Voice-Based Determination of Physical and Emotional Characteristics of Users.” Illness is the initial example but Amazon’s filing also indicates that emotional conditions may be identified. In the first instance, Alexa is using the data to personalize the user interaction and offer a relevant product for sale. However, the detection of a physical or emotional anomaly may also be used to modify how Alexa reacts to requests or what suggestions are made. The filing states:

“Voice-based commands may be provided via one or more voice inputs from a user. Certain embodiments of the disclosure may determine one or more physical and/or emotional characteristics of a user based at least in part on a voice input from the user. For example, physical conditions such as sore throats and coughs may be determined at least in part on a voice input by a user, and emotional conditions such as an excited emotional state, or a sad emotional state may be determined at least in part on voice input from a user…

“By determining physical and/or emotional characteristics of users using their speech, embodiments of the disclosure may identify or determine transient characteristics or properties of a user and/or a person using a particular device, which can be used to select highly relevant content for presentation to the user at that particular time, and which may not be relevant later. Certain embodiments may therefore have increased functionality, for example, with respect to user requests made via speech and/or for presentation of unsolicited content to users.”

Making Alexa more Humanlike

This technology means Alexa could appear more humanlike by interpreting physical and emotional cues from users detected in their speech. We do this naturally in human interaction and it often leads to expressions of empathy. In this case, it offers Amazon an opportunity to deliver an appearance of empathy while also introducing the chance to customize the interaction, including proposing items for purchase. The patent filing indicates that the physical and emotional cues may also be combined with other characteristics such as user age, demographic, location and browsing history to further customize the interaction.

Compliments to The Telegraph for first spotting the patent filing.


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