Just call her Dr. Alexa.

Have you come down with a cold? Alexa will know, just by automatically analyzing your speech and voice data. Then she might suggest you order some soup, cough drops or even medicine. She can then have them shipped to your home in an hour.

Alexa can't do this yet, but she may be able to soon thanks to new technology Amazon just patented. Amazon's "voice-based determination of physical and emotional characteristics of users" patent reveals the tech giant's growing interest in healthcare.

Amazon isn't the only company interested in leveraging consumers' biometric data. Walmart just applied for a patent last week that would capture shoppers' health data through shopping cart handles.

What this technology is capable of

The 17,000-word patent description outlines Amazon's potential plans for this new Alexa skill. All based on your voice, Alex could:

Get a read on your emotions

Alexa can sense if you're feeling any number of emotions, including excitement, boredom, happiness, and sadness. "Emotional states or conditions may be determined based at least in part on an analysis of pitch, pulse, voicing, jittering, and/or harmonicity of a user's voice, as determined from processing of the voice data," the patent explains.

Figure out how you're feeling

Amazon could tell if you have a sore throat, cold, thyroid issues, sleepiness, and other health conditions. "A cough or sniffle, or crying, may indicate that the user has a specific physical or emotional abnormality," as Amazon writes in the patent.

Determine your demographic information

Alexa could "read" your voice to determine your gender, age, or ethnic origin. The technology could The explanation behind gender and age uses a lot of big words: "Gender may be determined using non-negative matrix factorization, weighted supervised non-negative matrix factorization, general regression neural networks, and the like. Age or age range may be determined, for example, using Gaussian mixture models, hidden markov models, MFCCs, dimension reduction, and the like.

What Amazon wants to do with this data

Obviously, Amazon wants to sell you more stuff.

If Alexa senses that you're sick, she can ask if you need her to send over cough drops or flu medicine. Amazon says they could also use demographic information to target users for advertisements that is "highly relevant and timely to the user's current desires and situation."

Ultimately it sounds like the goal of this new technology is perfectly aligned with how the company already operates: capture as much as much info about you as possible so they can curate a highly personal shopping experience. But now, Amazon's looking to go several steps further by capturing info about your health, emotional data, and demographics. ​

Published on: Oct 15, 2018