updated 01:18 pm EDT, Wed June 13, 2012
Kinect to serve happy people vacation ads
A recently revealed patent application from Microsoft shows that the company may be working on bringing mood-based advertising to its Kinect peripheral for Xbox. The patent, filed in 2010, describes a method for serving ads based on a user's mental state as perceived by Kinect's 3D camera system or other technologies. Microsoft suggests the technology will help advertisers more accurately target their ads, which could conceivably improve their effect.
The patent lays out "a computer system, a computer-implemented method, and computer readable media" configured to read a user's mental state and target ads accordingly. The system would track users' online activities, including browsing history, search queries, instant messages, and so forth, as well as facial expressions captured by an imaging device such as the Kinect.
The system would then assign ads based on the similarity between the user's perceived mood and the tags already assigned to available ads. Thus, persons deemed to be sad or crying would be less likely to see ads for vacation packages or club parties, while a happy user might be more likely to see such ads.
The patent also allows for the system to measure user reactions to the served ads. The imaging and recording technology in the system would log a user's facial expression and tonal reaction to an ad, assign an emotional state, and determine whether or not the ad was successful. This data would be transmitted back to advertisers in order to help them tweak their advertising or assign new emotion-targeting tags.
The ad-serving system is said to be device agnostic, meaning that Microsoft could roll out the system for any number of technologies; but the Kinect, which is already capable of recognizing facial expressions, appears to be the most likely medium for such a system. Since Kinect's introduction, Microsoft has been working to expand its utility on the Xbox platform and bring the sensor to Windows.
Mood-based advertising could represent one of the first expansions of Kinect's capabilities to broader, non-user-controlled applications, and may signal the wider vision Microsoft has for such technologies. It remains unclear, however, if the company has immediate plans to implement the technology.