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.

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.

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