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Microsoft patents emotion-based advertising system

Categories: Science & Technology, World

 A new invention by Microsoft would help advertisers target online users based on emotional state. (iStock)Microsoft has filed a patent application for a computer system that will allow advertisers to target customers based on their emotions.

The patent includes a method to determine emotion over a certain period of time using a variety of methods, including:

  • Monitoring a user's online activity for tone and content.
  • Combing through a user's online history, such as search queries, emails and instant messages, to check tone.
  • Examining a user's facial expressions, speech patterns, gestures and body movements, captured by image or audio devices.

The system would then store the user's emotional state - positive, happy, confused, neutral, negative, angry or sad - in what the patent calls "an emotional state database."

Meanwhile, a second database would contain advertisements targeted specifically to people with certain emotions.

Put the two together, and Microsoft can target the right ad to the right people, those who are "emotionally compatible."

For example, the patent imagines a company called OMG Inc., which owns bowling allies and lounges specializing in birthday parties. One of its advertisements features "an animated bowling ball races down a lane to smash bowling pins, which triggers fireworks and balloons. The balloons rise and say 'CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY WITH A BANG AT OMG!'" the patent describes.

While the all caps, fireworks and balloons might resonate with people who are excited, happy or feeling celebratory, it might actually be too intense for people who are stressed or sad, Microsoft posits.

With its new system, Microsoft would ensure the ad was sent only to those who felt positively.

Current advertising systems "may have difficulty presenting an appropriate advertisement at the proper time and proper place because keywords fail to completely convey a user's context," the patent, filed Thursday with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, claims.

What are your thoughts on this invention? Would you want Microsoft to monitor your emotional state? Do you consider it revolutionary, intrusive - or maybe both? Share your comments in the field below.

(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)

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