Amazon Patents Alexa Tech To Tell If You’re Sick, Depressed And Sell You Meds

from ars technica

Amazon has patented technology that could let Alexa analyze your voice to determine whether you are sick or depressed and sell you products based on your physical or emotional condition.

The patent, titled “Voice-based determination of physical and emotional characteristics of users,” was issued on Tuesday this week; Amazon filed the patent application in March 2017.

The patent describes a voice assistant that can detect “abnormal” physical or emotional conditions. “For example, physical conditions such as sore throats and coughs may be determined based at least in part on a voice input from the user, and emotional conditions such as an excited emotional state or a sad emotional state may be determined based at least in part on voice input from a user,” the patent says. “A cough or sniffle, or crying, may indicate that the user has a specific physical or emotional abnormality.”

It’s not clear what ads would be sent based on a user’s emotional state, but someone who is sick might be asked if they want to buy cold medicine.

“A current physical and/or emotional condition of the user may facilitate the ability to provide highly targeted audio content, such as audio advertisements or promotions, to the user,” the patent said.

If the Amazon voice assistant determines that you have a sore threat, the system would “communicate with the audio content server(s)” to select the appropriate ad. “For example, certain content, such as content related to cough drops or flu medicine, may be targeted towards users who have sore throats,” the patent says.

Alexa might then ask, “would you like to order cough drops with 1 hour delivery?” After the order is made, the voice assistant “may append a message to the audible confirmation, such as well wishes, or ‘feel better!'”

More here.

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53 Responses to Amazon Patents Alexa Tech To Tell If You’re Sick, Depressed And Sell You Meds

  1. Mark M October 22, 2018 at 7:12 pm #

    As information technology continues to grow and evolve into what it is today, the limits are endless on what can be achieved. amazon technology is now taking steps to become the first to be able to detect people’s changes in moods an health based on changes in their voice. While this technology is groundbreaking, there are definitely some pro’s and con’s to what could be coming in the future.
    If you’re taking a broad view at what this technology can do, you can see the positives of how this technology could be used. The technology in which Amazon just got patented is astounding. This tech allows Alexa tech to process changes in your voice to figure out whether there are changes in your health (as in sickness) or there are changes in your mood. They connect this voice recognition type of technology with things such as browsing history, purchase history, keywords and page types to bring concentrated ads or specific sales to you. The reason this is a huge advance is the ease of access to products and medication that this technology now brings you. But as always, there could be problems.
    I believe that this new technology will create privacy and abuse issues. The problem I see is in that one’s privacy could be breached with the new information technology. With the technology, Amazon gets to look at your personal information, some which you might not want them to know. This breach of personal privacy could cause issues within this technology, as it would turn people off or bring upon law suits. If I were in the situation, I would not be comfortable with Amazon looking into my personal information of what I do on my computer, whether it was worth keeping private or not. Also, I believe that this technology could be easily abused by people who develop additions to medication. I’m sure that there are certain policies keeping people from buying or abusing drugs, but if there is a will, there is a way. Drug abusers will be able to use this technology negatively, which will inevitably cause problems as well.
    Luckily, some patents that get approved never actually see a market. Hopefully, in my opinion, this product doesn’t make it to a market because as Uncle Ben says in the movie Spiderman as “with great power comes great responsibility.”

    • Marissa Sarden November 8, 2018 at 10:49 pm #

      Amazon patenting the Alexa tech to determine if you are sick and depressed is a privacy issue. In the article Brodkin states, “Embodiments of the disclosure may use physical and/or emotional characteristics of a user in combination with behavioral targeting criteria, and/or contextual targeting criteria to determine and/or select content that may be relevant for presentation to a user.” This raises a concern, in order to use this program you have to allow access to the number of clicks you use, your search history, and your well-being. Is it worth your privacy to have Alexa order cough drops to your house? The feature is valuable but there are other costs that have to be incurred to fully use it to its full advantage. Alexa provides a voice detection but when she offers medication to you there are delivery costs.
      The feature should be given to a more larger target market, where privacy and technology are not conflicted. The target market or consumer will have to have a need and the financial means to support delivery costs. Furthermore, the market can be susceptible to handicap consumers, luxurious consumer, and/or someone who is really sick momentarily and is willing to use the feature to its full advantage.
      This idea can work if it is given correctly to the consumers. This is a feature but in order to give it to a larger market, it is also key to add other features to an updated Alexa so that consumers have a choice for the device to access their personal information.

  2. Michelle Vekshteyn October 23, 2018 at 1:26 pm #

    It is so interesting to see constant technological advancements, especially with Amazon. Amazon’s Alexa became so popular over the last year, and it has so many cool benefits. I personally do not have one, but my sister does. She has three young boys, all under the age of five. They all know how to use Alexa which is so cool to see the youngest generation right now already becoming skilled in technology already. Every time I am at my sister’s house the boys are constantly saying, “Alexa, play the Frozen soundtrack” and start singing and dancing. Alexa definitely comes in handy for some things, but I have also heard a lot of privacy invading stories such as Alexa calling the police because she heard two people talking about a plan to shoot or bomb something. Of course, in that case it was beneficial for Alexa to hear what was going on… but that makes it questionable of how much more she is listening to.
    This new feature is definitely an interesting one, and shows how robots and technology could potentially take over and be our new caregivers and really act as if they are real people. It is crazy that Alexa can tell if someone is sick or depressed just by the sound of their voice and be able to offer products to fix the situation. I personally would find it very weird if Alexa thought I was sick and offered to order me cough syrup. I feel like those are things that your Mom should ask you, not a small device in your house. Also, some people could just naturally have a raspy voice, and it might be offensive if Alexa constantly thinks that they are sick. I do believe that this is an interesting approach, but I do not know how successful it will be.
    The article does talk about how this system could raise concerns in privacy, just like I spoke about as well. Amazons patent states that, “Embodiments of the disclosure may use physical and/or emotional characteristics of a user in combination with behavioral targeting criteria (e.g., browse history, number of clicks, purchase history, etc.) and/or contextual targeting criteria (e.g., keywords, page types, placement metadata, etc.) to determine and/or select content that may be relevant for presentation to a user.” So besides using a voice algorithm to determine the person’s emotional state, Alexa would also have access to the person’s search history to determine if something is wrong mentally or physically. I think that there are many pros and cons to this addition, and I am excited to see how it will work when the feature is available to the public.

  3. Jaden Tate October 23, 2018 at 3:53 pm #

    I have never owned an Alexa nor have I ever wanted to. Most of my friend’s parents have it, and they use it most often in the first month of having it, and then after that, it sits there and collects dust. Amazon was smart and creating a product such as this one, but I do not think that Alexas users thought she was going to progress to this sort of magnitude.
    There was recently an article that I had read the said Alexa was basically spying on her owner. After thinking hard about it, Alexa is always listening for her name to be called, so she is still listening to what we are saying. This already puts me at ease because though I do not own one, whenever I go over to someone’s house, and they do, I feel as though I am being spied on. Now with Alexa being able to tell if you are depressed or sick is a whole other demon. In my opinion, if you need some sort of electronic device to tell you that you are infected with a cough or sore throat something is wrong. There is no reason why you cannot self-diagnose yourself and go get some medicine. It is just lazy that Alexa would need to tell you that you have a cough and then ask if you would like cough drops to be delivered within the hour. Stop being lazy and go pick up some cough drops from the nearest corner store.
    I do not believe that Alexa will not be able to accurately tell things such as being depressed or another emotional condition. Woman more than men change their voice and their mood throughout the day. One minute I could be happy and calm and the next I am screaming and yelling. Alexa may take this mood swing as me being emotionally unstable, but I take it as expressing how I am feeling. Also, if I am in a screaming match with someone and am expressing my feelings and Alexa comes out and says something like “you sound angry, maybe go sit down for a minute,” I am yelling at Alexa and then proceeding to smash her on the floor. The last thing I need is for some $50 device telling me that she can sense something is wrong and then giving me advice as to how to calm down.
    No Alexa should not be able to comment on one’s mental state. There are doctors out there who do this for a living, and if Alexa were to start doing this for only 50 dollars, one could go over to a friends house and get diagnosed instead of paying thousands of dollars to.

  4. Paul Lee October 23, 2018 at 9:16 pm #

    Every day I read different articles on technology from digital ID to AIs used for company recruitment. I am constantly blown away from the world’s innovation, we are developing at such a high pace that I wonder what kind of technology will revolutionize the world. Amazon is just the few behemoth companies that are at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. To read this article that Amazon put in a patent, as of March 2017, titled “Voice-based determination of physical and emotional characteristics of users”. The ability that Alexa, Amazon’s smart home assistant, can recognize in their personal users’ voice the physical or emotional pain is quite an insane concept. A technology that I did not think was possible due to the variety of users’ voices. Does it raise questions for me on how it would properly function: how it could properly detect a user’s physical or emotional pain? It would be very difficult to properly measure how the pain in the voice is recognized. I would also believe it would be strenuous on Amazon as they would need a gigantic database of different human being’s voices to properly decipher each users’ voices. Also, what kind of helpful product would it advertise to its users when it hears their health problem in the voice? What kind of advertisement would be tailored by Alexa? Finally, I am especially interested in what kind of advertisement would show or play for the user when Alexa detects emotional pain in the voice. I believe it would be very difficult to impossible to successfully to distinguish the emotional pain or distress in Amazon’s customers. Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri, this type of smart assistant has difficulty understanding their owner’s voices and distinguishing what each person is saying.

    Nonetheless, as new technology appears, there are negative aspects that weigh it down. To properly analyze each person’s voice, the system would investigate the user’s internet browsing history and purchase history. In other words, patent or system would be able to view everything the customer does on the internet. Amazon and this system would not use these data for the wrong reasons but what happens if Amazon use your voice data and this browsing history for other purposes? It is also another set of watchful eyes on what one does on the internet. Every human has the right to privacy and this is very questionable. Also, for Alexa to analyze their customer’s voices to figure or decipher if they are in any emotional or physical pain needs privacy regulations. Amazon should not be able to store user’s voices as data unless these customers consent. I also strongly believe that no other company should be able to view or obtain any of this voice data. These companies could use the data for their customer pool or for the wrong purposes. Also, hackers can potentially hack into voice database and use it for the wrong purpose. For example, they could illegally impersonate the person to use their finance or, again, perform illegal activates.

    I am not against the development of this patent from Amazon, I just find it very intricate to grasp that Alexa could do such a thing. I would love to see Amazon make this patent fully operational and implement it into their Alexa in the future, I would buy an Alexa to test this software design. If this system or software implemented operates successfully then this will revolutionize the entire world for the better. However, I caution to many people who buy into this that your privacy and the use of your voice would be at risk.

  5. Amber Stile October 25, 2018 at 10:33 am #

    Amazon’s patent acceptance for “Dr. Alexa” is incredible. The concept that your smart-home device, which powers your lights and other technology, can now diagnose you when you’re sick and offer medicine options is fascinating. I can’t say I would trust it for much beyond a mild cold, but it’s particularly useful for ordering. I know when I’m sick I never want to move from my bed, so being able to ask Alexa what medicine I should order will be particularly helpful, especially if it can be delivered in under an hour. This is also useful technology for parents with young children. When your child is sick, you don’t want to drag them to the store to get medicine if you suddenly run out, but you can’t leave them home alone either, so one hour delivery will relieve that stress. However, on the flip side, sometimes I wake up with a stuffed nose and then I’m fine in an hour, but it would be annoying to have my Echo send me medicine advertisements for the rest of the day because of a normal morning occurrence.
    Outside of being sick, I would not trust my Alexa to understand my emotions. One thing that AI has consistently lacked is the empathetic, human aspect. If my Alexa can tell me because I’m sad I should do ____, I don’t believe it would be accurate. Sometimes, I get excited and talk louder, but my Alexa may read that as anger. I’m sure there is incredible research behind voice analysis and what emotions it determines, but there’s a certain aspect of understanding emotions that I don’t think you can program. Amazon very well may have been able to make a software that determines emotional states, but I don’t think they can come far enough to tell me why I feel that way or how I can alleviate it.
    Aside from the actual capabilities that the patent explains, I think this could be a severe breach of privacy. Consumers who purchased an Alexa product to make their lives easier with programming or cooking or even just for alarms may not have wanted to sign on for emotional analysis. There is no way to ensure that smart-home products are not recording even when they’re not activated, so Amazon could be using these recordings to further their emotional analysis programming. If this wasn’t explicitly stated in the terms and conditions or any agreements made when establishing Alexa, consumers could claim their privacy is violated and they’re being used for research they did not consent to. Further, Amazon’s patent claims it will use other internet history (browsing, clicks, purchase history) to refine it’s personalized health and wellness analysis which could expose things that consumers did not want Amazon to factor into their personal program.
    I believe this is an amazing step for technology – if it comes into play. If it does actually become established, there need to be serious privacy concerns listed and agreed to before allowing this software to be used by consumers, to prevent Amazon from liability later.

  6. Nick C October 25, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

    As technology advances it, things start to become more convenient for the user. However with this convenience, more information is given to the company that owns the technology. Amazon’s Alexa is a great example of this with its tech that acts like a home doctor. This technology is fascinating because the user can order cough drops or medicine for themselves when they are sick and the user does not have to leave their house. This is also good because the user will not run the risk of getting anyone else sick if they leave their house.
    With this advancement of technology, privacy issues could be raised. The main concern would be disclosing your health conditions to Amazon. With this, Amazon could need to know your health records to order certain medications. Giving Amazon this information could be bad because their system could get hacked and your information could get leaked. Another issue raised is if the system does not work properly. If there is a glitch or a malfunction in the system, then it might not be able to detect what is actually wrong. Overall, the new Alexa technology has some major upsides to it. However with this there are some downfalls. For me to use this, I would have to see the types of reviews that it is receiving.

  7. Olivia I. October 25, 2018 at 1:44 pm #

    I think this latest advancement with Amazon products is not against my expectations for where technology is headed. This is an innovative approach the company can use to advertise and sell products to customers. However, I feel that it is ethically a little questionable. The company using the voice recognition feature to sell products to a customer can be interpreted as taking advantage of a person when they are in a vulnerable state such as sadness or illness. While helpful to be able to have access to ordering products so easily is beneficial, I feel that customers (especially sick ones) would rather purchase the items they need to feel better at their local drug store. It is a genius concept to try to deter customers from leaving their homes in states of vulnerability, but I also feel like going out into the world can, in some cases, be a source of aid when someone is feeling down. I think it will be interesting to see the progression of this new feature, especially the reaction of the public.
    Privacy is a very big concern of consumers, especially with the rise of technology such as the Alexa. Consumers are concerned with large companies having data about them. This is prevalent in society today, as we live in a society that is in constant fear of the sharing of big data and the exposure of this information, as well as the threat of it being used against us. I personally am not in fear of this happening, as I trust the companies that have my information and I also do not give a lot about myself to company data bases. I support the innovation and advancements of technology and hope the Alexa is used for good, not negative purposes.

  8. Silky B. October 25, 2018 at 4:04 pm #

    Information technology is breaking into any and every field available. According to this article Alexa, the voice-controlled speaker is now detecting illness in the voices of its users. I do not believe that this new technology will be able to accurately diagnose someone with a sickness or mental illness. I think this will lead to a lot of self-diagnosing by the people using it which will then lead to self-curing. People will be out buying medication for a sickness they probably do not even have which can lead to more serious problems. Problems like buying a product that the body will react negatively to or just simply taking a medication that you have no business taking. These are things that people who are sick are told by doctors. A doctor not only diagnoses you but gives you medication based on the anatomy of your body and what they believe your body can handle and not reject. This is why not everything can be introduced to the public because people have the tendency to put their trust in technology because they believe it will not fail them. That is far from the case. In addition, not everything can be replaced. The role of a doctor is one of, if not the most, valuable and necessary career that society needs. This new service that Alexa is providing is not in the best interest of the consumer. It also ethically questionable because it demonstrates the lack of awareness Amazon has of the current dependency people have with technology. I do not think they will succeed. Also, this idea of having pharmacy drugs delivered to your door is also questionable. I think it is useful in the sense that if one is too sick to get out of bed. But I do not think it is good in the sense that you are not going through the process of picking up your medicine at the pharmacy. I hope that Alexa will be continued to be used for how it was originally invented for. To play music.

  9. Nora Trapp October 26, 2018 at 1:00 pm #

    It seems that the majority of articles I have written about have something to do with technology. And even though this is true, the reality is that technology has influenced nearly every aspect of our human life. This article talks about a patent that Amazon has placed on a certain type of advanced technology that allows Alexa (the Amazon smart home accessory) to detect when you may be facing a physical or emotional abnormality. In other words, this technology has the ability to detect whether or not you may be sick, simply by the sound and structure of your voice. To an extent, I can appreciate this form of technology. When I say to an extent I mean, like the article mentions, the ability to diagnose simple illnesses such as a sore throat or a cough. In this regard, I do believe that this new technology is credible. However, the problem I have is when Amazon continues to make progressively increasing statements in relation to much higher medical complexities. For example, in the headline Amazon states that this new technology would be able to detect emotional abnormalities. My point of view in regards to this statement is that I do believe Amazon has the ability to take steps towards solving this problem, however, I do not believe that at this time they are able to be held credible to this statement. The reason I believe this is because emotional abnormalities are not a simple area of diagnosis. In fact, doctors and medical professionals spend nearly their whole lifetimes researching the different components that affect the way a human behaves – this is psychology. Now, how is a technological device that you command tasks to every now and then supposed to detect a change in your psychological behaviour? In other words, are we supposed to believe the recommendations given to us from a home accessory who now has the power to tell us that we may be acting emotionally abnormal? How does that make sense? The problem I have with technology advancing into areas such as health, and especially mental health, is that often these technologies are not held correctly accountable. In order for a doctor to practice medicine they need to be licensed, they need to pass several exams, they need to provide a certain number of hours to prove their capabilities, and the list goes on. However, in regards to technology, how do we hold these advancements accountable?

  10. Cassie Sibilski October 26, 2018 at 1:13 pm #

    This article was about a new technology Amazon has developed for Alexa to be able to detect through your voice if you are sick or depressed or something like that. It is somehow able to detect “abnormal” physical or emotional conditions through a voice analysis, and then be able to recommend a type of medication you may want Alexa to order. While in theory this may sound like a good idea, I feel like it could end up causing more problems that would outweigh any possible benefits. For example if somehow the Alexa technology makes a mistake is somehow recommending or advertising medicine to someone who doesn’t really need it, that might become problematic. I think this feature also makes the process of being sick a whole lot less personal when you’d be having a small technological device in your home analyzing whether your sick or not and then suggesting medicines. I think it seems kind of creepy to be honest, that it can somehow “know” through your voice what it is you might need. This would also present a huge privacy issue since now the device would be taking audio it hears and storing and analyzing it which is pretty crazy when you think about it. The device would 100% be invading customers privacy and taking the concept of Alexa being a home assistant to an entire new level. I feel like having data stored about customers typical “baseline” emotional states is very weird to have stored in a technological database. Knowing that Amazon would ultimately have access to all of this information on its users and customers seems like a huge invasion of privacy that seems to me like it definitely shouldn’t be allowed to go on. Ultimately in theory, this whole idea sounds cool, but I think it’s pretty creepy that it would be analyzing people’s voices. I don’t even really think that doing that would always be the most accurate and would therefore end up misrepresenting people’s moods and emotional states. I’m sure if this feature goes public, we will definitely end up hearing more about it, probably in the sense that people are worried about the privacy issues that it no doubt will present.

  11. Warren Vetter October 26, 2018 at 1:24 pm #

    I have never owned a device such as Amazons Alexa or Google Home. I believe these devices can easily be tracking your every move or order that you place. Whether you tell it to turn off your kitchen lights or to order more napkins these machines that are supposed to make life easier can be tracking you. Now Amazon has a patent that will make Alexa be able to tell you whether you are sick or even depressed. Alexa will ask you if you want to order cough medicine or any other type of drugs to make you feel better. To me, that is a little scary. Imagine if someone was to hack into your Alexa and realize that you are sick in bed. They can easily break into your home while your in bed trying to feel better. Furthermore, I think you’ll be able to tell if you are sick or not. You shouldn’t need to rely on a robot to tell you that your sick and need to take care of yourself. This could be helpful for older people who can’t do things by themselves and they need an extra hand or a home robotic assistant to help them. I just don’t believe that Amazons Alexa is a mandatory home item. Due to the fact, that they can easily track you and they have your own personal data saved into their system. Yes technology is advancing and it is in fact incredible that Alexa has the ability to tell you that you have a cold or that you are even depressed.

  12. Gabrielle Bram October 26, 2018 at 2:37 pm #

    Amazon’s patent for the new Alexa is a big advancement for technology and could have major impacts in the future. I find this article to be very interesting and I learned a lot about Amazon’s technology that can analyze your physical and emotional state based on someone’s voice. This could help people get the right medicine quickly, but from a business prospective it will create more advertisement revenue for Amazon. Companies will pay Amazon to advertise certain medicines when people are sick. I recently read an article “How Amazon Alexa Works” by Innovation Enterprise, and it discusses how the voice recognition operates on the Alexa product. This technology was originally created the 1990s and has been improving ever since. It was interesting reading about the details of the system and how it is improving each year.
    The new patent of the Alexa technology is still in the early stages, and Amazon might have to consider new privacy laws if senators decide to create them. Even though the idea of the new technology is incredible, many people might feel their privacy is being violated. I personally would not mind Alexa analyzing my physical or emotional state, but there are other people that feel uncomfortable. The patent also states the system will consider your browser and purchase history and I feel that will be a privacy issue. I personally don’t like when I research something on Google and then I later find that item as an advertisement on my Twitter account. I think that browser history has become a main concern in the advancements of technology. Overall this patent will make great improvements for technology and it could be a new advertising tool for medicine companies.

  13. Michael Zera October 26, 2018 at 3:21 pm #

    Technology today is improving annually, and Amazon has just released a patent that might change the future of automated voice technology. In the article, the author explains that Amazon has patented technology that allows Alexa, Amazon’s voice service device, to tell whether an individual is sick, or depressed. Alexa will also can sell products based on your emotional or physical condition by the sound and ton of your voice. This is unbelievable to me, and most people wonder how this is even possible. With this new technology, Alexa can differentiate your real voice from one that sounds sick or depressed and will immediately ask if you need medications. For example, content related to coughing, such as cough drops, is targeted to people who have sore throats. Alex would then proceed and ask, “Would you like to order cough drops with 1-hour delivery?” This will allow people to order medication in an easy process that will allow users to state what they want without having to go through the hassle online. This new feature that Amazon is providing Alexa is intriguing, and demonstrates that in years to come, technology can provide people aid instead of attending a walk-in clinic and having the struggle of filling out paper work. However, this new technological device sometimes seems to good to be true. For example, if someone coughs or sneezes because they have something in their throat, would Alexa automatically believe that they are sick? These are some questions that others such as myself have, and I would expect Amazon to have an answer to an issue such as this one. Also, voice-controlled technology could take over society that may force many people to become dependent. This is one negative effect of new voice-controlled technology devices such as Alexa that will give people the opportunity to let the robot do their errands for them. Instead of going out to the mall, or going online to make an order, all that is needed is to tell Alexa what to deliver and it will be brought to the individual. Overall, these new technological advancements that are evolving have pros and cons like everything else. Yes, it is very cool that Alexa could determine whether one is sick or not and will recommend certain medicine. I just hope that many people to not become dependent on new devices that will result in many becoming lazy and dependent on these devices. Technology is evolving and people are going to have to start becoming familiar with newly designed devices as in the future years, advancements such as Alexa might become a staple in our world.

  14. Sandra C October 26, 2018 at 3:27 pm #

    Diagnosis over the internet is not a new program. Currently, many healthcare providers have video chat capabilities that the patient can use to call a doctor. The patient would then describe his or hers ailments, and the doctor would prescribe medication or give other feedback of health. The difference between Amazon’s new feature on Alexa and the healthcare provider is that there is no human interaction. In today’s world, human interaction seems to be fading away. With the more innovative technology that comes in, the less need there is to physically talk to someone. This creates introverted people who are unable to communicate with others. However with this human interaction taken away, topics like depression, may be easier to come by. Some people are stubborn, and refuse to seek help when they are sick. Whether it is having a cold, or struggling with depression, many people will refuse to go to a doctor. I think this new feature is great in that sense that it will start a conversation. However, it sounds like this is just another way for advertisers to target customers. My concern is if Amazon is doing this because they care, or just as another way to advertise to people. When handling topics like depression, Amazon has a true option to help those in need. However, if this is being used as another way to cyber stalk people into more sales, it seems wrong. With all of the breaches that have been occurring in Facebook, this is worrisome because project has a chance of breach as well. I am curious to see if there will be laws, such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which protect patient information. When targeting a customer and sending them ads, Amazon must be “telling” the advertisers what they believe is going on. Although this new project sounds great, it also sounds like an invasion of privacy. There will need to be a lot of security put in-place in order for it to turn out useful.

  15. Douglas Tkac October 26, 2018 at 4:22 pm #

    To start my response off, I really don’t know how I feel about all these types of voice-controlled AI systems that just started to pop into people’s home all nonchalant. I know that devices like these can be very helpful, but I don’t believe they are really that helpful unless you’re using them to buy another product, turning off lights in your house for you, or asking it for the time or weather forecast. Call me an old man, but I really haven’t seen a truly productive use for any of these types of devices (including the Amazon Echo).

    Anyway, the article describes on how Amazon’s Echo and “Alexa” will be now starting to detect to see if there is anything wrong (physically or non-physically) based on the tone, sound and any abnormalities that it might detect just based on your voice. As Amazon filed the patent earlier this week, the patent states that “A cough or sniffle, or crying, may indicate that the user has a specific physical or emotional abnormality”. Based on this, Alexa would then offer recommendations to see whether or not you would like certain remedies or medicines delivered or ordered.

    My main gripe that I have with this is not due to any privacy concerns or anything along the lines of that (because let’s face it, if you already have an Amazon Echo or a Google Assistant you’ve proven to not care a lick about your privacy). The gripe that I have with this service is so simple: it’s nothing new. It isn’t innovative as people might make it out to be.

    If you go onto the internet and look up anything related to medicine or treatment for anything, there is a high chance that your activity online is going to result in pop-up ads appearing on the side of the webpage advertising medicine or treatments. Why exactly are we glorifying this when Amazon Echo does it? I know that Amazon is all the rage within this second half of this decade (as myself, I got an Amazon Prime account), but I see nothing attractive or spectacular in receiving pop-up ads through an automated AI’s voice instead of seeing it physically in front of me on a webpage.

  16. Amanda Nitting October 26, 2018 at 5:40 pm #

    What started out as a company that mainly just sold books, it has become the top online retail store. One of Amazon’s infamous products is known as Alexa which is a device that is a cloud-based voice service. Amazon is now bringing to the table the concept of patenting technology that will enable Alexa to “analyze your voice to determine whether you are sick or depressed and sell you products based on your physical or emotional condition” (Brodkin). In addition, the patent is called “Voice-based determination of physical and emotional characteristics of users.” Based on the first impression, this seems very fascinating, but also problematic at the same time. Thinking about the type of technology and research that will need to be incorporated to get this device to produce accurate results on detecting an illness is very interesting. However, the reasons to have this function is where the line becomes blurred.
    In some aspect, this seems like just another way Amazon can charge its customers more for a product. This is due to the fact that people should be able to detect when they are feeling ill and distinguish whether they need over-the-counter medication or go see a doctor. A person who has a sore throat does not need to hear Alexa tell them this condition because that person should know that is what is going on in their body. However, depression is a bit different because there are cases where the person dealing with depression is unaware or an outside person cannot see the signs. In that case, I think this technology could be useful for those dealing with mental illness because that is a little trickier to see under certain circumstances.
    A major issue that Amazon is struggling with for getting this patent approved is the privacy concerns. Since this technology is analyzing a person’s physical and emotional state, which can easily turn customers away because they might not enjoy that and feel it is too intrusive. There has been much debate recently over creating new privacy laws especially with how fast technology is adapting. During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Amazon among others had to disclose information about consumer data privacy and in the patent, it states that “the system would take into account the user’s browsing history and purchase history.” Since there has to be a voice processing algorithm that can pick up on a person’s state, which is something that has never been done before. If this patent does go through to be sold on the market, it will be very interesting to see how to public reacts to it. If there is technology out there that is able to quantify a human’s emotional state, then the question is what other things that no one really thought could be put into an algorithm will be? Alexa might be the first step in a direction that the world has not experienced whether that is a positive or negative thing. The privacy issue seems to be the biggest thing in Amazon’s way and if they can get through that, then this updated Alexa will be in the hands of the public in no time.

  17. Dominic L October 26, 2018 at 6:15 pm #

    The phrase “Big Brother is watching you” from George Orwell’s book 1984, was somewhat of a far-fetched idea at the time, but is very relevant since the creation of the internet. Amazon’s Alexa has already been proven to be always listening. There have been trials that used the audio recorded from a device for evidence. The issue, I believe everyone will have, is that now they know Amazon is listening. I have always thought it was eerie when I would think about something and have an ad pop up on my phone for that exact product before I had the chance to look it up. With this new technology patent, these product suggestions will be constantly in your face.

    To have a little black cylinder connected to the internet knowing if you are sick or upset may not be the most comforting thing in life. If Amazon implements this technology, the data collected may be used by insurance companies to adjust coverage rates. If a Alexa user has a chronic cough, perhaps an annual cold or some sinus issue, why would insurance companies not take advantage of increasing rates? They would have proof that said person is sick and may require a trip to the doctor.

    If a user is suddenly showing signs of depression, would Amazon have to contact local authorities because of possible suicidal thoughts? Would Alexa be able to prescribe antidepressants? Users may abuse the system to get prescription drugs or teenagers may illegally order cough medicine with one hour delivery to get high off of.

    I do not think this is the best use of technology. Yes, it is great to have some little machine do the shopping you particularly might not want to do, but there are too many possible negatives to come out of this.

  18. Joseph Capouch October 26, 2018 at 6:42 pm #

    The title itself, from the article “Amazon patents Alexa tech to tell if you’re sick, depressed and sell you meds” was more than enough to get me thinking. Some of my first thoughts and impressions were things such as how something like this could work, whether or not this is a privacy violation, and if I personally would value or dislike tech like this as a consumer. The article had quite a bit of information to help me work through these questions I had, but I was still left unsure at the end of it.
    The article explains how Alexa would be using a “voice processing algorithim”, and could be able to detect a wide variety of emotions including happiness, joy, anger sorrow, sadness, fear disgust, boredom or stress. It could also pick up on vocal cues, such as sniffling or coughing, which could indicate an illness in the user. Using these methods, an assessment would be made, and the person using the device could be marketed items, like cold medicine or cough drops. Alexa may even be able to play specific, appropriate ads audibly, suggest a quick delivery time for these items, or even offer phrases like “feel better!” afterwards. While the technology in this may be impressive, I cannot help but wonder if it may not be an appropriate use.
    Another important topic is that the possibility that being analyzed by a device like this, and having products marketed to you because of that is a breach of privacy that some people may not be comfortable with. The topic of people having things like their internet search history, record of previous purchases, or other forms of data gathered being used to target advertisements has already been something that has appeared frequently in articles, and discussions. This article itself mentions how Amazon, among other companies have been called to testify in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing about consumer data privacy, and how Senators are considering the idea of writing new law in this area. Even if implementing something like this in their devices was allowed legally, it is possible that Amazon could still lose sales from customers who simply would not like the idea of their device being capable of things like this. Perhaps the option to disable this specific feature on Alexa would put some minds at ease, but the article gave no information as to whether or not an option like this would be given.
    After being given all of this information from the article I had to wonder: would I dislike something like this, as an Amazon user, or would I find value from it? My first thought was that this was too bizarre, or even uncomfortable, and that I would not like it. However, I also tried to imagine some scenarios where it could be useful. If I was starting to get sick, but paid little attention to it, and was going on with my day normally, but then received an advertisement for medicine because of cues in my voice, I may become more aware of my symptoms and buy the product. In this way, this technology would actually be a benefit to me. My overall opinion, though, is that this patent should not go any further. I believe a product like this would be more trouble with issues such as privacy and consumer dislike, than it is worth from what benefits it could give. While the idea is very interesting for sure, I still do not think it should be seriously pursued.

  19. Yash Wagle October 26, 2018 at 7:00 pm #

    Even though I knew about Amazon moving into the healthcare industry, and making its own pharmacy service, Amazon’s new patent allowing Alexa the ability to sense your physical and mental conditions is a bit surprising. In this new patent the voice assistant is able to sense its owner’s health and emotions and then adjust its responses to account for those things. For example if Alexa senses through your voice, that you have a sore throat it will readjust its response and suggest buying some cough drops or flue medicine. What I find most intriguing about this patent is what Amazon truly seeks to do with it. I mean surely for the people who are self-aware of their condition whether it be a cold or more serious conditions like depression, a voice assistant simply offering to help with medicine seems to be of no help in my opinion. However, if Alexa was able to diagnose and respond to a person who is perhaps unaware of a condition such a depression, than perhaps Alexa would be doing some good by making that person more aware, and give that person ways to seek professional help.
    Another big issue that comes with this patent is about privacy. One of the ways Alexa is able to make this “diagnoses” is by analyzing the user’s browsing and purchase history. This could become an issue for Amazon and this patent as the article even writes about the fact that the senators are considering making a privacy law to help protect consumer data, so they don’t get exploited.
    It would be really interesting to see whether or not Amazon applies this technology to the new version of Alexa. Interestingly enough I did come across while researching Amazon’s patent, that BMW is also trying to implement a similar technology. BMW is looking into making a front-facing camera to sense the emotions of the driver, and their comfort. More than Alexa, I believe that this type of technology would be more understandable and perhaps beneficial in a car. In the case of BMW, the belief is that the camera could sense anger, or drowsiness of a driver and try to help calm or alert them. I believe this would be a wonderful use of the technology, as road rage is a very common yet avoidable danger.

  20. Petar Micevski October 26, 2018 at 8:17 pm #

    Technology has continued to break our expectations of it time and time again. As we improve our technology, it is through that evolved technology that we use as the foundation for implementing newer and more efficient technological objects. In this case, it is the voice recognition aspect. Alexa was an explosive innovation because it allowed the consumer to connect their entire house into a smartphone. By simply saying “turn on the lights” or “make the lights blue”, the buyer was able to execute commands through a vocal presentation. However, once we got used to Alexa’s responses, we realized how much more we could do with it. As more things started to become smart, Alexa’s scope to comprehend our functions became larger. This, in turn, allowed us to completely make our houses smart through wireless communication and tools such as Bluetooth. But what is the main reason why we are doing such events?
    The answer is the concept of the Internet of Things. An object known as a Synthetic Sensor is able to be plugged into a wall and convert the area into a smart environment. This environment would allow you to collect data on your personal time. This could be used to help track how much energy you’re using, how much water you’re wasting, and even how many paper towels you have left. The following link is an example of CMU’s Synthetic Sensor and will show you a depiction of how the sensor combines thermal, sound, and voltage to connect to the activities that a human does: https://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2017/may/internet-of-things-sensors.html

    By learning what certain tasks feel like, this sensor would be able to infer certain things that humanity does on a daily basis such as sleep, eat, and go to work. Personally, I think that it would be very interesting if people were exposed to this type of technology because it would be interesting to see what kind of conclusions could come up to the good and bad habits of certain areas of the population. While the idea itself presents some curiosity, the idea in practice is another thing. Many issues involving privacy and user data tracking would come up time and time again, giving the government another reason to collect data entries on people they consider as numbers. However, if the data was used for non-malicious purposes, we could observe long-term trends of the habits that people do and see how we can solve issues such as wasting water and polluting areas. Unfortunately, the device that CMU has developed is only capable of listening and understanding the actions, not performing them.

  21. Nicholas Stefanelli October 26, 2018 at 8:35 pm #

    What will Amazon not do in the future? Amazon as a whole is a very accomplished company. Besides, have one of the largest growing platforms of buying and selling goods. They also have managed to dip their hands into their own branding of products and Ai. Their most popular product is the Amazon Alexia not only can it be a wireless speaker, buy things off amazon for you, or search the web for facts but now it can be your doctor.
    That is right I said doctor, is this for real? Yes, this is very real. According to this article, it can tell your emotions, prescribe, and sell medicine. Now it is not actually released to the public yet but it can be at any time if it is approved. Amazon has patented the technology and can integrate it into all of its devices with Alexa on it through an update. Last time I checked people went to school for years to become a doctor> I do not think I would feel comfortable with a robot telling me if I am sick, depressed, and sell me medicine.
    Let us talk about how a robot is going to describe my emotions to me better than I can or another human being. Alexa will be able to describe emotion by “Embodiments of the disclosure may use physical and/or emotional characteristics of a user in combination with behavioral targeting criteria (e.g., browsing history, number of clicks, purchase history, etc.) and/or contextual targeting criteria (e.g., keywords, page types, placement metadata, etc.) to determine and/or select content that may be relevant for presentation to a user.”
    In conclusion, I feel that this is technology that should not be used in the privacy of our own homes or at all in general. I do not think any techno that does not know what emotion it should have the ability to determine human emotion. This is almost as if you are going to ask a psychopath (which in its definition includes someone who cannot feel emotion) to determine your mental state. Would you be okay with that?

  22. Anthony L October 26, 2018 at 9:31 pm #

    I have never understood why anyone would bring devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Home into their home. These devices are an invitation for people to spy on you and your household. So, even if this patent does not manifest itself as an actual feature Echo owners already have privacy concerns. According to the New York Times, these devices are, “…always listening,” This means that the owners of this products are putting a great deal of trust into these companies to prevent their conversations from being listened to by hackers or not to sell their information to other companies or the government.
    These devices are not unhackable. “researchers and security experts…have found ways to hack into and control these speakers’ voice assistants with methods including undetectable audio commands, eavesdropping software and targeting devices connected on a network,” This shows the current dangers of bringing one of these machines into your home. These patents, if implemented, would open the door for even more of consumers’ personal information to be vulnerable to hacking. This technology would also allow Amazon to sell this personal data to pharmaceutical companies and other such companies in the medical industry. Even if a new law is passed protecting consumer privacy, that does not rule out the possibility of companies selling consumer information illegally.

  23. Justin Heath October 26, 2018 at 9:45 pm #

    It seems like we’re constantly in a state of asking “What will Amazon roll out next” whether it be with the new Alexa, Amazon Go, or the next innovation. Now that Amazon can track how you speak in order to gauge sickness and depression, they can market medicine to us. This raises the question of whether or not Amazon will be working with pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare businesses.

    However, a concern that keeps arising with some of these new innovations is the issue of privacy. As if people weren’t already concerned over the fact that Alexa can overhear your conversations, this new technology is able to sense changes in how you speak in order to diagnose health issues. I can understand the intent behind it as being positive, but it’s just another thing that Amazon is doing that seems to be too personal and invasive on our privacy. I think Amazon should be more considerate of the fact that people aren’t solely focused on convenience when looking into their products.

  24. Rableen Sudan October 26, 2018 at 10:27 pm #

    Amazon has become a well-known website that people surf on, when they want or need any type of product from food to electronics. The amazon website alone has a special algorithm that measures how many times you looked up a product to how much time you spent on looking at the product. It is built in a sense where you will not only buy that product but other products as well. For instance, if you search for a laptop sleeve on Amazon, you click on a product and scroll down you will see your product as well as another product under, “frequently bought together.” This actually promotes other products as well as pushes the customers to spend more time on their website. Moreover, Amazon promotes their own “Amazon’s choice” product before another company.

    This actually correlates with the article when it discusses the voice processing algorithm that they are now testing on Alexa. I personally feel that smart technology will be integrated into every house as well as in our lives. I do not have an Alexa, but one of my close friend that does have it uses it for everything from alarms to reminders. She says, “It makes my life easy, and if I need a reminder I just let Alexa know the time and what I need to be reminded of.” However, with the algorithm that allows the device to know your not feeling well and recommend over the counter medical products is a bit scary.

    I believe that our generation is not ready, just yet, for this technology advancement. This is because we still remember a time when the technology first came out and had just started to integrate into our everyday lives. Technology has come a long way and we understand that once it’s out on the internet, it will be out there forever. Thus, Alexa being able to monitor our voice and knowing when we are depressed or not feeling well makes individuals feel like they are constantly being monitored. Of course, it is initially built for our own benefit; yet, I believe this generation has not reached the mindset of technology taking care of them.

  25. Abigail Johnson October 28, 2018 at 12:31 pm #

    Amazon has become a sensation across the world, bringing easy access to goods, that are delivered directly to your house. They have become so popular and reliable, that they have now created their own products to further ensure convenience for Amazon users. Their newest product, the Amazon Echo, is famous for having “Alexa” as the voice, its purpose being to make navigating the internet or making a grocery list more convenient and easier then ever. However, the creators of Alexa might be taking the voice recognition of Alexa a bit too far, as they are now in the process of patenting a voice analyzing software, in order to have the Amazon Echo recognize, for example, that you need cold medicine. This is also a way for advertisements to be more directed towards the user, so they are more likely to purchase the product being advertised. I think that is a way for privacy to be broken between the technology and the user, as everyone might not want to be analyzed when they are saying voice commands, and be told by the Echo that they are having emotional or physical problems. In my opinion, this is something that can not be determined by voice analyzation. A physical illness such as cold, flu, or cough is something that can easily be identified by the Amazon Echo. However, I do not agree that by the tone or way you speak, that the Echo can determine if you have anxiety, depression, or any other emotional issue. Even though this technology is able to detect if you are happy, angry, or sad, that does not mean it has the right to diagnose you. Making a diagnosis is much more complicated then the way a person speaks. I think that Amazon is trying to make their Echo stand out against other devices, but this is not necessarily the way to do it. This analyzation technology is not going to make or break Amazon Echo, but it could persuade people to not purchase the Echo. This is because this invasion of privacy is on a completely new level, and some users of the Amazon Echo might not completely agree with this way of operation.

  26. Victor Prieto October 28, 2018 at 11:11 pm #

    I love the idea of detecting health issues, especially in a day where the importance of mental health is more prevalent. This is what technological advances should be used for. At the same time, Amazon is doing this to sell products based on the condition Alexa determines from consumers. Will Amazon receive a certain percentage of proceeds from these sales? Are the products being sold from other companies that partner with Amazon to increase their sales? As an owner of an Amazon Alexa, I would be a bit annoyed if I received a recommendation to buy Tylenol just because my voice is raspy and I have been sniffling. However, I am more interested in the determining factors of depression and what they would then recommend. Lots of times, I hear therapy being thought of as something only for people in bad mental health conditions. I come to find this absolutely false: Therapy could be used for many reasons. If Alexa could recommend any therapists or psychological centers in the area and potential contact information for the consumers, then I think it would be very helpful. Rather than therapy being seen as something for “crazy people,” it should be used by any and all kinds of people. Whether it is career goals, personal problems, or anything that people may want to talk about, venting provides a clearer mind and allows for personal discovery along the way.
    One of the first concerns I had when I saw the title of the article is privacy concerns. People have privacy concerns with Alexa already, as it recognizes people’s voices. There seems to be a trend of people believing that there is someone on the other side of the Alexa sitting in and taking notes on the conversations that are occurring. While nobody reads every single line in a privacy agreement when setting up the product, there is a large doubt that someone wants to hear about everything I am saying all day everyday. When there is a reason to listen to what I am saying (information regarding criminal activity for example), then I believe Alexa has every right to listen in. The new patent from Amazon claiming that it would take emotional characteristics, browse history, and keyword searches happens all the time already. Alexa would just be another product that uses this. The “voice processing algorithm” to determine the user’s emotional state amazes me. The fact that a small machine can determine emotions similar to a human can just by hearing pitch, pulse, voicing, etc., coming from the human is exactly what technological advances should be used for. While I do think many pro’s come along with this innovative feature of Alexa, the privacy issues that will come along with it is something Amazon will have to consider. The time and energy that will go into fighting lawsuits over this issue might be draining for the company to partake in. Any breaches of personal privacy will bring upon a world of problems for the company. The pro’s that come along with someone being able to see me Google searching the score of a baseball game outweigh the cons of Amazon seeing what I am searching.

  27. Adam C. October 29, 2018 at 12:14 am #

    This article discusses the recent patent that Amazon took out on improvements to Alexa technology. This technology would allow Alexa to advertise and suggest products based on the sound and tone of a person’s voice. It could detect “happiness, joy, anger, sorrow, sadness, fear, disgust, boredom, stress, or other emotional states” and make suggestions based on those feelings.

    As mentioned further in the article, this technology raises privacy concerns. However, one of the concerns not mentioned in the article is what Amazon is going to decide to do with the tagged information. Will Amazon use this information in the other services they provide? For example, if Alexa hears that you’re feeling stressed out, will Alexa hide stressful articles on the Washington Post? Also, will companies be allowed to pay Amazon to have their products suggested over other products? If Alexa is suggesting medications, this could lead to the possibility of a less effective product being suggested or the entirely wrong product being suggested.

    Additionally, this technology patent seems to be blurring the lines between Amazon and the lives of their customers. Not only is Amazon already in the homes of their customers, but now they are actively listening in on their customers feelings. While this will allow them to better sell products, it allows Amazon to influence what products customers buy based on the suggestions they first give.

    I also have doubts that this technology is tested well enough for the variety of people’s tones. If someone consistently sounds the same and are good at hiding their emotions from their tone, will Amazon still be able to pick up on this? Also, would something like this have an opt out feature? While some people may value the convivence that Alexa could provide with this technology, I still think that there are too many unknown applications and uses that Amazon could have in this type of technology.

  28. Erica L. October 31, 2018 at 11:00 am #

    I personally think this is very cool. Amazon is continuously making improvements and using technological advances to their advantage. I have one of these and it is very useful and helpful in many ways. Adding this feature will be huge for Amazon and it will be huge for consumers as well because of how convenient it is. This can be seen as very helpful to some people, however, I can understand some of the privacy issues that have some consumers concerned about this feature.

    Amazon is primarily using the voice to detect how one person is feeling before the Alexa determines the state of that person and what that person may or may not need. I think this can cause a privacy issue with people more about the depression state rather than the person feeling sick. I think this can really help someone who is feeling sick because they can order medicine to their residence without having to go out and get it. I think the issue with this feature is if people are depressed they usually do not want people to know that they are depressed.

    Lastly, I think it is very smart for this feature to check your recent purchase history because then if one does need medicine, Alexa will be able to purchase it easily because it is accessible through the persons purchase history. I think that this feature shoes how fast technology is progressing and I think it is a very cool feature to have in your home.

  29. Amari J October 31, 2018 at 12:09 pm #

    New technology is always so mind blowing and interesting. It makes you think how scientist have constructed such a device. For instance, Amazon creating Alexa. She is an advanced virtual assistant to her user, developed by Amazon. Alexa is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and news. Alexa can also be installed to control several smart devices. She can be utilized as a home automated system if installed in that manner. Amazon being the innovative company they are did not want to stop Alexa’s capabilities at just that, Amazon’s technology squad have come up with a new version of Alexa that can detect a cold/flu and depression or other emotional states and prescribe medicine to that user. This technological advancement could be dangerous being that she is not a doctor and can not understand the problems that could arise from giving the wrong diagnosis and prescribing the wrong medication. Amazon’s patent states that Alexa can detect physical changes in her users voice such as a sore throat or a cough and then request if her user would like to buy cough drops or syrup in 1 hour delivery, which can be very helpful. But having a sore throat and prescribing cough medicine is different than being in a depressive state and providing the wrong option. To be less dangerous I believe Amazon should allow Alexa to request from the user to schedule a doctor or therapist appointment. This will allow a professional to do the diagnosing and Alexa to still be of help and perform her job without diagnosing a mental health problem on he own.

    Amazon’s patent also states that Alexa would take into account the users browsing and purchase history to better analyze the physical or emotional symptoms. I believe the technological scientist at Amazon could figure out a way for Alexa to process and determine a person’s physical or emotional states without taking data from the person’s browsing and purchase history. This is just another attempt for big companies to take our personal privacy away from us. In doing this they would be violating our Fourth Amendment to enjoy our right to privacy in our own home.

  30. Tyler Miller October 31, 2018 at 4:11 pm #

    The Amazon Alexa system is a great technological invention but I have never bought one of them myself. After reading this blog by Professor Shannon, I do not intend on ever buying one of these systems. The company of Amazon has divulged themselves in almost every market available to consumers. On one side of this innovation, it is amazing that there is technology developed to be of assistance in the case of sickness or sadness. Although, I do see this as potentially being an issue of privacy. I understand that there is an implied agreement in purchasing and Alexa system that the device is able to collect information from its surroundings, but the question that begs to be asked is where does a company’s ability to advertise to you cross the line? One of the largest issues in regards to this issue was that of Facebook, in which the information of users was sold to marketing agencies and advertisement companies. Amazon is taking an even closer step into your world of privacy by allowing Alexa to be able to target you directly in a time where you “cough”, “sniffle”, or “cry” by then providing you with advertisements that you could potentially find useful. How is this different than the on-going issue that a lot of consumers talk about where not long after a conversation with a friend they receive an ad about that specific item? In my eyes, this is even more pervasive, but in terms of business this is an incredibly profitable move.

  31. Erica Glover October 31, 2018 at 7:49 pm #

    According to the article technology is advancing more than ever today and the latest advancement with technology is Alexas voice controlled speaker. Alexa can now detecting illnesses through the voice of its users. The article states that Alexa can determine if you are sick or depressed and can then sell you products based on your needs or physical and emotional condition. The article also goes on to explain that amazon will have to take into consideration the privacy implications of letting Alexas voice analyze the emotional or physical state of human being amazon customers. If Alexa detects a cough sniffle or crying that can indicate the user has an abnormality. I personally do not agree with this form of technology. I do not think that Alexa will be able to accurately diagnose someone with a sickness or mental illness. I think people who tend to rely on technology too much will hear what Alexa has to say about their so called illness and this could lead to self-diagnosing and also taking medications they don’t even need. Their bodies could react badly to the medications they don’t need, diagnosing sickness or mental illness is solely the responsibility left for a doctor to do. People tend to put all of their trust in technology now a days and something as serious and mental and physical health should not be left accountable to technology. I feel as though having peoples emotional states is not acceptable or normal to have stored in a technological base. Amazon will then have access to all of the customers personal health information and that in my book is a violation. Even though the overall idea of the technology is pretty amazing it seems to me to be a privacy violation that will run into issues.

  32. Michael Robins November 1, 2018 at 1:03 pm #

    This article really got me thinking about the development of technology and privacy. My parents have recently tried out an Amazon Alexa for a short period of time. My overall impression was that I thought it was mainly pointless. To me, it was another piece of cool technology that really did not do much. Reading this article, I got the same impression. It is really stunning that Alexa can sense potential health problems. The article does not mention how well it works and it how accurate it is however. I feel as though most of the time, people already know when they are sick, depressed, or whatever the case may be. Why should a computer recommend something that the person already knows and is common sense? The idea behind this tech is interesting and if used in the right way can be very beneficial. This brought up a question in my mind. Are we just developing technology for the sake of developing technology? In other words, are Amazon and other tech companies just innovating without a purpose? In either case, whichever way you look at it, this technology is still very impressive if it works accurately.
    The other area that got me thinking is privacy. As mentioned in the article, there can easily be privacy concerns with this type of technology. Personally, I would not want Alexa listening to my voice and making determinations about my health based on it. It also begs the question of whether Alexa constantly monitors browsing history and purchase history. This was brought up in the article and really caught my attention. This made me wonder what else Alexa is keeping track of and how much it really monitors. Going back the tech point, this made me ask again if this technology is really necessary. Although on paper it sounds innovative and unprecedented, is it invading privacy and is it actually useful? It should be worth keeping an eye in whether this type of technology spreads and how much of an impact it makes in terms of ethics.

  33. Monique Edward November 1, 2018 at 2:47 pm #

    What an incredible feature to incorporate into Alexa. The team that came up with the feature was thoughtful and innovative. Although I think recognizing whether a person is sick is fascinating, I am not fond of selling medication based on an emotional state. Is Alexa monitoring a person for an extended period of time to decide whether someone is depressed? If not, advertising anti-depressions is absurd. A person’s mood can change more than once a day, and Alexa does not see or hear everything that occurs in a person’s daily life. Therefore, Alexa could be advertising specific anti-depressant medications to people who are not depressed but instead just having a bad couple of days due to a temporary situation.

    People may be resistant to this feature because privacy is a large issue that has made numerous headlines due to data breaches at companies, such as Facebook, Adidas, and Best Buy. The public may look at Alexa’s voice processing algorithm as an excessive feature because Alexa may be able to read a person better than another person. Therefore, Alexa will be way smarter than a person soon. For instance, some people cannot tell whether a person is feeling angry or sad, but since Alexa can, it can prevent other people from taking care of the person who had an emotional issue or help problem. This situation would adversely affect building personal and business relationships. Loved ones will not be able to fully connect with that while pharmacies and doctor offices cannot create a loyal client base. This feature also makes the public wonder at what point will Amazon draw the line from aiming to meet every customer’s needs.

    Green, Denis; Hanbury, Mary.“If you Shopped at these 16 Stores in the Last Year, your Data Might Have Been Stolen.”Business Insider, https: //www.businessinsider.com/data-breaches-2018-4#panera-bread-11

  34. RJC-Rider November 1, 2018 at 3:34 pm #

    What an exciting time to be alive! Technology advances continue to amaze me and Amazon always has something interesting to show off. The latest patent for Alexa increases the possibilities of our robot home assistant to now detect when we are possibly in need of a product and recommends it to us through an add. I am extremely excited about this technical advance in Alexa. What I really like about this, is the possibility that there will be interfacing between our search history and what the Alexa detects in our speech patterns. This will allow for further custom tailoring of the adds and maybe our favorite brands of cold medicine could be recommended, or maybe recommending a cheaper generic drug that differs from a more expensive branded drug. Our interests and needs have the potential to be met before we even known we need them.
    There are of course some concerns with this development in the area of privacy. Alexa will be keeping further tabs on our physical and even mental emotional health with this new advance. This information ultimately belongs to Amazon as it is collected and in today’s world, information in it of itself is worth selling to add to profits. There are endless companies that could be interested in this information and willing to pay Amazon for the exchange of this personal information. Worse yet, the information could be stolen from Amazon, exposing personal information, specifically personal health identifiers (PHIs), about a person’s well being. This could prove serious especially if mental emotional health is exposed.
    I do think this has the potential to be a very beneficial addition to an already helpful product in many homes. Provided that the data is safeguarded from attach and the information related to it will not be sold or exposed intentionally, the benefits of this could greatly outweigh privacy risks. I look forward to the outcome of this new advancement in human technology!

  35. Alexander Fialkowsky November 2, 2018 at 9:59 am #

    The Amazon Echo assistant named Alexa is a up and coming necessity in the homes of Americans. It is a voice recognizing tool, like Siri, that can play music for you, tell you the weather and now apparently can tell when you are sick by your voice. Amazon has announced that Alexa can now detect patterns in a person’s voice such as coughing, tone, or word choice to determine if they are sick. Alexa can also tell if a person is depressed and give them targeted ads based on this discretion. In my opinion, I was surprised Alexa did not do this from the start. I personally do not own or want to own an Amazon echo for this very reason, it is too smart. There has to be some level of privacy that we can maintain, unfortunately we keep exchanging privacy for cool new gadgets. Although I feel this way, there could be some practical applications to this tonal recognition if modified. For example, if a person is being threatened or held captive in their home and did not want their attacker to know they have alerted the authorities, Alexa could be the solution. If the software were able to detect fear or unusual behavior and determine it as danger, Alexa could alert the authorities in a matter of seconds. However, even if this idea was implemented, it would not be enough for me to buy one of these devices. I deal with enough targeted advertisement throughout my day already, I do not wish to have a speaker in my home telling me to buy DayQuill.

  36. Aaliyah W. November 2, 2018 at 11:56 am #

    Do you ever just be watching a YouTube video on your phone and suddenly, your next video that you watch has an ad specifically related to the topic you were watching prior? Well I have. On YouTube I am interested in watching videos on makeup and hair, so when I went to my Instagram account there was a mini ad all about hair. I have even received many follow requests from a couple of hair companies, after the YouTube videos. When I experienced this situation, I was freaked out at the fact that there is no privacy in anything you do on your own phone, that you pay for. Everything you watch and type in is being evaluated and or tested at any moment. This leads to technology knowing more about us than ourselves and anyone else, which is not okay. Our phone is our gateway, but it is not from those who have access to everything we search and or watch.

    Now hearing about this technology that Amazon just patented, by the name of Alexa, it can now detect “physical or emotional abnormality”. The same information that can be figured out by a doctor, can now be detected by a high-powered piece of technology. I never thought technology would get to the point it is at now so quickly. I honestly find it fascinating how this technology can detect whether we have a sore throat or if we are depressed, based on the sound/tone of our voice. Almost instantly, the technology searches for remedies and advertisements to show the individual, pertaining to their abnormality. This gives the individual, a chance to order any medications and have it delivered directly to their house. Nowadays people rarely go to the doctors for simple coughs/sore throats because they feel it is unnecessary. This new technology add-on just might be the next big thing, if it goes through. It saves people time to do other things, then having to take a trip to the doctor’s office and wait 15-30 minutes to finally get looked at. It is time consuming, which is why this feature for Alexa will be helpful. But being that technology now is this high tech, it could only scare me for the future.

    What I see in the future is, all this technology taking over our jobs, just as they are already starting to do. We are used to controlling technology, but what if in the future they began controlling us and what we do. Driverless cars are being created, where the driver is the car and not the individual who is in the passenger seat. It is time for us to consider whether to keep technology expanding to just make our lives easier or to slow down the process and only create technology that would be efficient in our lives, and not taking our jobs.

  37. Tirzah K. November 2, 2018 at 1:08 pm #

    Alexa is a device that is always on and always listening in someone’s home. When they are ready to place an order, they just dictate it to Alexa. Alexa can be asked just about anything at any time and it will always respond as accurately as possible. Now Amazon wants to turn Alexa into an in-house doctor that will have the ability to diagnose illness, prescribe medication, and send it directly to the home. There are definitely some serious privacy issues going on here!!! First of all, Alexa is always listening and that data has to be recorded somewhere. It’s no different than shopping online and having cookies stored on your computer for sites frequented without your knowledge. Some people want to protect their medical information, so they certainly won’t want a diagnosis from this device recording that data.
    The other problem is having a machine diagnose a person based solely on the sound of their voice. Will Alexa be so intelligent that it can recognize sadness over pain? If Alexa detects that a person has a scratchy throat, how can Alexa be sure that the scratchy throat didn’t occur from screaming at a game, or allergies. Instead of medication, perhaps all the person will need is hot tea with lemon but how can it be possible for this device to detect and know that. If a person has a fever, it’s not possible for Alexa to detect their temperature from their voice. Alexa may be able to hear that her host sounds different but it’s not possible for it to know why.
    It may seem like a good idea to have devices / robots conduct all types of business for us in our daily lives but nothing can take the place of a face-to-face visit with your personal doctor who has knowledge of your history. It’s also not a good idea for a device to prescribe and send medicine. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. How can the device know if someone is allergic to penicillin? There are doctor services that are online where a person can sit face to face with a doctor and talk about their symptoms. Doctors are able to make a diagnosis based on sight and facts. That’s a better idea than a device making a diagnosis. Perhaps Amazon could consider partnering with doctors online and have the service accessible through Alexa. That would be safer and more logical for the consumer. I know I would try it, as long as I’m not depending on a device alone!!

  38. Brandon Ruiz November 2, 2018 at 2:20 pm #

    Today innovation is something that is essential for the future of our society. However, the unceasing spirit of innovation that exists today has the power to produce certain types of technologies that have the power to cross sometimes blurry lines that is not meant to be crossed. When trying to understand how something like this could happen it is helpful to think of a “mad” scientist. The stereotype of a “mad” scientist is an innovator who wants to reach a certain goal so badly that they end up crossing essential ethical boundaries. This stereotype is something that not only extends to scientific fields such as chemistry but also to computer science and the science involved in technological innovation. People who embody this stereotype are becoming more and more commonplace in today’s society. This has caused our society to constantly question whether certain technological innovations cross important ethical boundaries in their function and use.

    The most common ethical line that technological innovation has the tendency to cross is the boundary of personal privacy. Amazon has recently approached this important ethical boundary with its new patent. Amazon has patented a new technology that has the power to determine a person’s emotional and physical state in order to personally tailor ads to each person. The technology would work with Amazon’s Alexa technology that is already currently in use to analyze a person’s health and emotions. The way the technology would go about doing this is by first determining the user’s normal/baseline emotional state. The only way it would be able to do this is if the technology listened to everything you said even while not using the device. That is a very serious privacy concern. What’s of even bigger concern is the fact that the patent states that the technology can determine the emotional and physical state of “any user” regardless of whether they regularly use their Amazon device or not.

    This is a complete invasion of privacy on every possibly level. Essentially their device would be monitoring their daily behavior at all times. If the device were a human being and they were monitoring your behavior at all times they would be arrested. However, with the invention of this new technology it could possibly be okay for a device to do that same exact thing. Then that same device has the advantage of using that invasion of privacy to specifically target you as a customer. This technology invades privacy and should never be implemented. It basically gives Amazon the power to spy on every single one of their customers that have one of their devices. Amazon could claim that this is not an invasion of privacy due to the device not relaying the behavioral information back to the company itself, but that argument is not valid. It’s not valid because the only thing that the company would want to use that information for is exactly what the device would do by itself without relaying the information back to the company. This type of technology is unethical and should never be released or implemented.

  39. Steven Gravlin November 2, 2018 at 3:15 pm #

    First, it is truly incredible what technology is able to do. When a device is able to detect certain medical conditions it really shows how much progress technology is making. While this technology is amazing, I do not think that it should ever actually be used unless it is really perfected. Also, I think this technology should only be used in cases of over the counter medicines. The article mentions violations of privacy, but I personally would have no problems with it. If I have a sore throat it is clear whenever I speak; this means that I cannot really be private or embarrassed because my voice clearly changes. I would find it convenient to just talk to “Alexa” and then have the opportunity to have cough drops on my doorstep in an hours time.

    Cough drops are a completely different thing from prescribed anti depressants though. Also, someone may feel that their privacy is violated if they are feeling sad one day and Alexa asks if they want to buy Zoloft. A lot of people would feel embarrassed then. Also, if Alexa were able to give prescriptions then this could give an opportunity for people to fake certain illnesses that would give them access to powerful drugs to either use themselves or sell illegally.

    I think this is a great concept but I definitely think there is a line. First, there would need to be an insane amount of testing done to make sure this technology is as close to perfected as possible. Second, I think that there should be only over the counter medicines available. Third, if privacy does become an issue, then there should be an option to turn this service off. If Amazon can do those three things then I could definitely see this being implemented and people really enjoying the convenience of it.

  40. Melissa Joas November 2, 2018 at 5:28 pm #

    RE: Amazon patents Alexa tech to tell if you’re sick, depressed and sell you meds

    There are many issues that arise from the concept of a later version of Alexa being able to detect changes in a person’s voice or tone of voice and sending targeted ads based upon this. While privacy is one of the first considerations, it is likely not the most important one to look at when deciding whether this type of technology is ethical or not. I think that one of the biggest concerns is that people might rely on this technology to diagnose themselves. There is no denying the fact that Internet search engines have been the go-to source for medical information for many Americans in recent years. In some ways this is a public health issue. There is a lot of misinformation to be found online. A lot of information on health conditions is sponsored by drug companies or others who have a financial incentive to lead individuals to believe that they have certain health conditions. If Amazon releases a version of Alexa that makes recommendations based upon a person’s voice or tone of voice, it will then become one of those interested parties. We cannot rely on Amazon to do what is in the best interests of its customers. There will need to be regulations in place that protect people from the targeted advertising being used in ways that could be harmful.

    One way that a person can be harmed by this technology is by being dependent upon it for an accurate diagnosis. For example, if a person has a raspy voice and a sore throat and is offered cough drops by Alexa, he or she might decide that it is not necessary to make an appointment with a doctor. A sore throat is not always caused by a common cold. It could be a symptom of something that requires further treatment, such as antibiotics for strep throat. Typically, strep throat is diagnosed by a doctor, who is trained to identify visual symptoms and then swab the throat to test for the bacteria. At that point, antibiotics are prescribed along with any other medications that the doctor feels are necessary. An argument can be made for Alexa having the capability to provide consultations with physicians as virtual consultations are becoming increasingly popular. With growing awareness of the misuse of antibiotics and the resulting superinfections, I do not think that Alexa will ever be able to prescribe and send antibiotics to patients – or in Amazon’s case, customers. One thing to ask Amazon is whether Alexa will advise users to go to the doctors or not. The next is if it will put them in contact with recommended doctors. This opens the technology up to other forms of abuse, such as ignoring the best interests of the users and referring them to doctors who paid Amazon for mentioning them or even worse, who pay based upon number of patient visits. An additional concern is that people will make appointments with their doctors for medications that they do not need. There is a lot to be said about the power of suggestion. If Alexa detects sadness in a person’s voice, he or she might think that an antidepressant will help when the change in voice is unrelated to mood. I think that Alexa’s advertising should be required to contain important disclosures like the pharmaceutical companies must include in television advertising.

    Another way a person can be harmed by this technology is by relying on Alexa to notice when there is something regarding his or her health that needs to be addressed. The article states that it would use a “voice processing algorithm” to judge an individual’s emotions when speaking to it. Amazon recently had an issue with its resume selection algorithm, which evolved to downgrade the worthiness of women’s resumes simply for the fact that they were female. A lesson should be learned not only by Amazon, but by the population from this occurrence. What this tells us is that Artificial Intelligence does not replace human intelligence. One can also assume that Amazon is not technologically superior to other designers and therefore is prone to developing faulty AI. The article also states that Alexa will customize itself to a user’s normal voice but that it will also be able to detect the emotional states of people who have not used the device before. If it is necessary to tailor itself to an individual’s voice, then its accuracy in judging new users’ voices comes into question.

    The marketing opportunities created by this technology are likely far more valuable than an increase in revenues created by a demand for it. Amazon would not have invested the time and financial resources into a project that did not have enormous earning potential. This kind of advertising will have gone too far, once it is used.

  41. Hadeel Aioub November 2, 2018 at 7:23 pm #

    The title of this article, “Amazon patents Alexa tech to tell if you’re sick, depressed, and sell you meds” immediately caught my attention. At first, I thought the title was a humorous pun attempting to highlight the issue of privacy with digital devices yet again; however, upon reading the article further, I realized this was not the case. It amazes me just as much it alarms me that technology has become this advanced, especially given the fact that this kind of advancement can affect consumers directly. Amazon patenting technology that allows Alexa to conduct a voice analysis that will help the device distinguish between different moods/emotions truly highlights this advancement in technology. If the device recognizes any signs of illness, such as sniffling, coughing, or even the sound of a sore throat, it will likely suggest various different remedies to help the consumer. These remedies can include suggesting content such as cough drops, soups, flu medicine, etc. Although a part of me is very intrigued and fascinated with this cool new feature, another part of me is quite concerned and confused.

    The issue of privacy certainly does concern me when it comes to this new patent. It is no secret that Amazon already tracks users’ purchase history, what they search for, how often they purchase from the site, etc. I usually don’t mind this kind of user analysis, solely due to the fact that it is to enhance user experience. Although this new patent may have the same goal (to enhance user experience), it is certainly cause for concern if a technological device is able to analyze my voice in that depth. I do not want to feel as though I am constantly being monitored, and it will certainly seem that way for many consumers who may not fully grasp the science/algorithms behind the patent.

    Amazon is clearly doing very well for itself, and the company is constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to advance in various fields. Amazon Alexa is one of Amazon’s most popular products, which proves that they have done very well in the field of artificial intelligence. However, this new patent may be a little too technologically advanced for some consumers, which may trigger privacy concerns. In order to prevent consumer concerns of this sort, Amazon could be more transparent with the technology behind this new feature when marketing the product. Although that may not necessarily eliminate customer concerns completely, it could potentially help alleviate them.

  42. Marco V. November 2, 2018 at 10:48 pm #

    Artificial intelligence has made its way into the lives of many across the world. Amazon products, such as their Alexa powered devices, are innovative. Alexa, an artificial neural network, constantly learns about customers. This raises privacy concerns since these devices are always listening to their owners. In one case, an Alexa powered device served as evidence for a murder case. Amazon was asked to release the recording of an Echo smart speaker powered by Alexa. These devices not only analyze our voices to fulfill requests on demand, but are constantly listening in on our conversations. This concerns us of how ethical it is to have a company “spy” in on us. It is a way for us to allow these companies to continue to monetize from us every way they can. This all ties in to their acquisition of PillPack, an online pharmacy, which Amazon paid just under $1 billion for. This is how they would be able to deliver you, as stated in the text, cough drops for your cold in less than an hour.

  43. Tyler s November 5, 2018 at 9:02 pm #

    Amazon has developed and patented ground-breaking technology that allows the Alexa technology to analyze voice to determine whether a person is sick or depressed and will attempt to sell products targeted towards the persons condition. Psychical conditions can be detected when talking to Alexa including crying and coughing. The goal of the product is to be able to target the customer with helpful medicine advertisements. Amazon is strategically targeting sick people with advertisements of products that they can buy, from Amazon of course. The Alexa can offer the customer cough drops from Amazon with quick deliveries by reading the sickness in the voice and quickly making a sale. Amazon is now able to make sales while sick people have conversations with their Alexa speaker in their kitchen, a tactic that seems rather intrusive.
    Consumer privacy is a huge issue when considering allowing the Alexa voice analysis to go to market. Big companies make the majority of their profits through advertising which targets consumers online. These advertising agencies target consumers based on their searches and website visits which is very controversial in regard to consumer data privacy. The new Alexa technology “would take into account the user’s browsing history and purchase history.” This is something that we as a consumer do not need. We do not need more ads that are specifically tailored to our viewing history. There is no secret to why specific ads pop up after viewing products on the internet. Our privacy is in jeopardy and the last thing consumers need is a robot in our homes reading our voice and verbally targeting us with advertisements.

  44. Lauren F November 5, 2018 at 11:57 pm #

    I can’t tell if this is this is a genius plan or a potential disaster. A device like this can detect a cough or a sneeze and recommend products you can buy. For the most part people can tell when they’re sick and aren’t gonna buy something because a computer suggests it. However if the delivery is quick and cheap they could be prone to buying something just incase. I for one wouldn’t be rushing to the drug store to buy meds if I had a slight cough but if a friend tells me I might need them and offers to go get them I’ll most likely say yes. I can see certain companies taking advantage of this by having it make suggestions to buy certain brands. Things like “you seem tired, you should buy this coffee” or “you seem stressed, you should buy these oils”. That technique works because they’re using an emotional appeal. Usually Amazon just suggests products based on what you have bought in the past. That can work if you say, bought a dress and are interested in buying another. It doesn’t work so well if it’s giving you costume suggestions after Halloween. Being able to tell what you need in the moment would be way more effective. Especially if you don’t have to even leave your house to buy something.

    However I can also see this going terribly wrong. The article talks about Alexa sensing if you’re depressed and prescribing medication. That could be a serious issue. Obviously you would need a doctor’s note to get the more high quality meds but there’s always a good substitute. People could start becoming reliant on these meds because Alexa orders them. I do believe that most people are smart enough to know the difference between having depression and having a bad day. However, as I mentioned before, persuasion can be a powerful thing. Those people may not think to pop a pill until Alexa suggested it. Then those people could start to become addicted or dependent on these pills. For that matter we shouldn’t be so reliant on pills. It seems like everytime there’s one little thing wrong the solution is to pop a pill. Pills should only be used when you have no other option. You should also consult a doctor or pharmacist before you try something new. Alexa is designed to sell you stuff, it has no understanding of your actual needs. People shouldn’t be taking suggestions from a robot. I can see this going wrong in so many ways.

  45. Britania B November 6, 2018 at 5:17 pm #

    The first thing I thought of when reading the title is that Amazon Alexa is going to be the new doctors. Normally when people do get sick, they go to the store and buy the medication that they did but now things are changing. Technology has advanced throughout the years, and Amazon has the evidence to prove this. This technology could help many people because everyone does not know what medication to take if he or she feels sick. On the other hand, this technology can cause many lawsuits for Amazon. Privacy issues are a big thing for any companies as Facebook with the hand-free video chat. This would gather customers personal information which without the person consent it could be a lawsuit. Some of the older generations will not use this type of technology, but this could be marketed to the millennium and younger generation.
    Another con could be many people have the same voices with many different emotions there are facing. I do not think a robot technology could determine how they feel by just the tone of their voices. Many drug dealers could overuse this technology because they could pretend to be sick to get more medications and plus it might be delivered right to the front door. Some medication in a pharmacy has to sign off to receive it will that be the case for this too, if not it will also be easy access to people overusing their medications.

  46. Robert Musantry November 7, 2018 at 5:30 pm #

    The Amazon Echo was always supposed to be a revolutionary piece of technology, letting users literally speak their wishes into existence. Want to hear a song? Just ask. Want to learn any fun fact ever? Just ask. Want to turn your lights on or off? It can do that too! It was designed to help in any way possible. The latest technology developed for the Echo is apparently able to determine user’s physical and emotional characteristics just by listening. Amazon filed this patent back in 2017. The Echo will be able to detect anytime that the user is not their normal selves, such as when they have a sore throat or a cough. This will allow the Echo to play ads for cough drops or medicine.
    As the article goes on to mention, this could cause some issues. The first that comes to mind is that we are going to be relying on a machine to diagnose someone only using sound. What if there is external noise the Echo hears that affects the way it thinks? What if someone who is not the main user of said Echo is sick and talks to the Echo, making all the targeted ads targeted at the wrong person? Also, taking a step back, do we want the Echo trying to guess if we are sick or not? Most people can tell when they need a cough drop and are completely capable of getting them when necessary. Why have the Echo step in and do anything at all? Even more important, do we want the Echo to go beyond how we physically feel and start guessing our emotions? I for one do not. That seems like a mess, and a slippery slope we do not want to dive onto headfirst. Because once we let the Echo determine our mental state, where do we stop? Can our cell phones, which we always have with us, have the same technology installed, so that we are constantly being physically and emotionally monitored? It is at least a possibility, and a possibility that removes all personal accountability. Always taking advice from technology like this could lead to a complete lack of knowledge about ourselves and how our bodies feel on a daily basis, causing a weird placebo effect where the Echo tells us how we feel instead of the other way around.

  47. Hannah Roselli November 8, 2018 at 10:26 am #

    This article stuck out to me because it just shows how much technology can invade into our personal lives, and really listen to everything we say. I think it is crazy that Alexa can hear everything you are saying, and listen and understand the tone of your voice to sell you medicine. That is not something that interests me in any way. The purpose of an Alexa is not to be your personal doctor, and it should not be able to listen to, and take note of everything a person says and does.

    There are some pros of this, for example if someone is really having terrible thoughts and feelings Alexa will be able to hear the negative things he/she is saying which then could allow for the Alexa to somehow recommend help for that person. Or even if a person sounds congested and has a cough Alexa can recommend some type of cold medicine to help them get better as well. Technology is growing and expanding so much, and it is great that there is a technology that can do this, but I do think that there is an appropriate time and place for this, and I do not think that people should have to worry about all of their conversations being listened to. I think an appropriate place for this type of technology to take place would be in a doctor’s office, or in a therapist’s office, or even on a hotline for people who are feeling depressed.

    The issue of privacy comes into play here because Alexa can clearly hear and understand everything people say, and understand the algorithms of people’s voices. This is an invasion of privacy I think because no one wants all of their conversations to be heard, and sometimes people talk to themselves and say things they do or do not mean.

    All in all, technology is becoming a larger part in our everyday lives and technology like this is inevitable, we just need to learn how to make it work, and need to learn how to adjust to technology like this.

  48. Alexis Pateiro November 9, 2018 at 12:19 pm #

    When I read this article, it was shocking to see how much Amazon is continuing to advance in this industry. Their technology is starting to have a huge impact on their products that have been unheard of up until this point. Amazon has patented technology which allows Alexa to analyze your voice to determine whether you are depressed, sick, and sell you products based on physical or emotional condition. I think it’s a great advancement in technology, but I am worried about the accuracy. Doctors tell people all the time to not try to search their symptoms on the internet because they may get the wrong diagnosis. How would Alexa differ from a website like WebMD or just google in general?
    I think the awareness factor of the advancement is a good idea by letting people know they might be sick. However, I think Alexa should suggest going see a doctor and give an overall idea on why they suggest to. It also concerns me how she will suggest medication that you should get because what if the products she suggests are not wat you need to take. Like I previously said sometimes something may sound like a common cold or the flu, but a doctor should be the one to tell you what you need to take or do to get better. Another concern is the privacy aspect of this technology, if Alexa thinks you depressed that information will stay and will be part of her function. Which could also raise questions about the browser history and purchase history due to her suggestions based on your physical and emotion state. I think that it is meant to be a wellness awareness and has good intentions, however, I think it is way too risky to put out to people.

  49. John Skalski November 9, 2018 at 2:57 pm #

    I feel like I say this a lot, but technology is continuing to grow and become more and more amazing, but scares me because of some of the stuff that it can do. What Amazon did with Alexa is really amazing but also scary because a device can sense when you are sick or emotional because it remembers what you normally sound like when you are not feeling that way. That scares me a lot because I do not know about everybody else, but I do not want technology keeping track of me and trying to sell me medicine because it thinks that I do not feel good or something like that. There are doctors in the world that are supposed to be doing that. I feel that Alexa keeps track of a lot of stuff that we do and we have little to no privacy. Whenever I am home and just relaxing I do not want technology to be recording me because my home is my private time and it should always stay that way. Another aspect that scares me a lot is the fact that Alexa is able to keep those recordings and essentially send them back to Amazon. I can just imagine some person sitting in a room collecting so much of what people do daily and just listening in and doing whatever they want with all that information. In a world where technology has become so great, there is no longer any more privacy. I know a lot of people, including myself sometimes, that will say that they have nothing to hide so what is the big deal if Amazon or someone is spying on me? The more I think about it the more I realize that it is a big deal because you simply do not have any privacy. You may think that you are the only person in the world that knows what happened that one embarrassing time when you thought you were by yourself, but chances are someone that you never met before knows exactly what happened. That aspect scares me a lot and has me think how weird it is that someone I never met once before in my life may know more about me then even some of my friends do. Anything that we do in the world anymore will always continue to be recorded, and “private time” is no longer a thing.

  50. John Heintz November 9, 2018 at 3:15 pm #

    Upon first hearing about this patent, I was in complete shock to know that the smart speaker I have in my house may eventually become capable of recognizing emotional responses. While on paper this sounds incredible, in practice I’m not so sure how accurate it can be in determining an individuals mental state.

    And while yes, it would be fantastic to have a tech-savvy glorified Physician’s Assistant in the comfort of our homes, this immediately send my mind to the issue of user privacy. Amazon was recently involved in the proposition and drafting of privacy laws and while this is good, without any sort of legislation present, this will surely have some people raising questions.

    From a personal standpoint, I think Amazon is doing an incredible job venturing into other outlets outside of their online retail giant. Given the future of technology and its uncertainty, every step of the way will be important in determining whether this type of communication can be made into a reality.

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