You know the routine: Browse a commercial website and you’ll start seeing ads for that website (and perhaps its competitors) sprinkled across the web. Email about an upcoming trip and ads will begin appearing across the top of your email for hotels in your destination. Even if it provokes discomfort, we have become accustomed to the idea that the trails we leave online will be mined and targeted advertisements — those that respond to the emails we have typed and the websites we have visited — will come into our lines of sight.
But what if that data set — the data that informs the targeting — expanded beyond the words and clicks we input through our keyboards and our cursors? What if it included your body language as you slumped on the couch after a long day at the office or the hug you shared with your partner upon receiving some good news? What if advertisers could see not the trail you left online, but the life you lead in your living room?
A vision for such a world is set down in the text of a patent application from Microsoft for “Targeting Advertisements Based on Emotion” released last week. There are plentyofotherpatents for “targeting advertisements based on emotion,” many of which assess “emotion” based on the sorts of web trails we know advertisers watch. But Microsoft has something those other patent-holders don’t have: the Microsoft Kinect.