Amazon Wants Alexa to Know When You’re Sick

There’s nothing like being taken care of when you’re sick. That’s why Amazon’s new patent for Alexa, its virtual personal assistant, can tell if users are sick just from their voices. Once Alexa determines that a user is sick, it will give them useful information, like suggestions of medication or a recipe for chicken noodle soup.

Related: Amazon Alexa Could Help with Chronic Pain

But it doesn’t end there. The patent will also allow Alexa to detect a user’s emotional state, whether the user is tired or crying, the user’s age and gender, and where the user is from based on their accent. It even allows Alexa to determine what the user is doing from their background noise.

amazon-alexa-voice-patent-drawing
Amazon Alexa Voice Patent Drawing

Alexa isn’t just collecting this information for fun. Once it detects a user’s state, be it medical, emotional, or physical, it will play them customized ads. Congested? Alexa might play an ad for cold medicine, available to be sent through Prime Now, of course. Bored? Alexa might suggest a new show on Prime Video. This patent would allow for even more targeted ads, as the device could collect more detailed information about the user and advertise to them in real time.

This isn’t Amazon’s first foray into the health-care industry. In June, Amazon acquired PillPack, an online pharmacy. It isn’t hard to imagine the new voice technology integrating nicely with PillPack and Prime.

Many have privacy concerns regarding the new patent, especially relevant after Alexa’s recent hiccups. A woman last May claimed that her Alexa device recorded a private conversation between two people and sent it to one of her contacts at random. Amazon said this was “an extremely rare occurrence” and refused to refund the woman for her device. Only time will tell if the new voice technology will be a blessing, a curse, or somewhere in between.

Featured image courtesy of the U.S Patent and Trademark Office.

Aliza Vigderman

Aliza Vigderman

Aliza is a journalist living in Brooklyn, New York. Throughout her career, her work has spanned many intersections within the tech industry. At SquareFoot, a New York-based real estate technology company, she wrote about the ways in which technology has changed the real estate industry, as well as the challenges that business owners face when they want to invest in property. At Degreed.com, an education technology website, Aliza created digital content for lifelong learners, exploring the ways in which technology has democratized education. Additionally, she has written articles for The Huffington Post as well as her own content on Medium, the online publishing platform. Aliza’s love of journalism and research stems from the excellent Journalism program at Brandeis University. At Brandeis, Aliza interned as a research assistant at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit “news room without walls”. There, Aliza was paired with an investigative journalist and used academic databases to obtain data on everything from the suicide rates in Bhutan to local Boston court cases. Her last position was as an account executive at Yelp, educating business owners on the power of technology to increase revenue. Throughout, however, her heart remained with tech journalism, and she’s thrilled to be writing for Security Baron. When she’s not keeping afloat of the latest tech trends, Aliza likes to cook, read, and write. A former high school “Class Clown,” Aliza has completed two feature-length screenplays, a pilot, and countless comedic sketches. On her days off you can find her relaxing in Prospect Park, trying the latest flavors at Ample Hills Ice Cream, and spending time with friends and family.

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