Got the sniffles? Alexa may notice someday — and offer cough drops

The doctor is in.

Ben Fox Rubin/Techhnews

Some day, if you cough or sniffle while chatting with Alexa, the voice assistant may respond back with an offer to sell you cough drops.

Amazon was granted a US patent Tuesday that describes ways for making Alexa more aware of your physical or emotional state, such as if you’re excited, bored or even a little sick. While Amazon is constantly working to make Alexa more human-like and knowledgeable, it’s unclear whether the ideas from this patent will ever be added into the voice assistant.

Amazon declined to comment for this story.

The concept of making a digital assistant more emotionally intelligent has been discussed for years, but AI hasn’t yet caught up to the complexities of human feelings. Creating AI that can notice these human cues could make Alexa more useful for people and help Amazon sell more relevant products to its customers.

But, Alexa and its fellow voice assistants still misunderstand a lot of basic requests, so it may be a while before they can tackle these harder tasks. Plus, especially when it comes to people’s health, customers may find a new Alexa feature that notices emotional or physical changes invasive and creepy, even if meant to be helpful.

An illustration from Amazon’s new Alexa patent.


In an example in the patent filing, a user tells Alexa, “I’m hungry,” while coughing and sniffling. Determining the user may have a sore throat, Alexa asks the user if she would like a recipe for chicken soup. She declines. Alexa follows up by asking “Would you like to order cough drops with one-hour delivery?” The woman responds: “That would be awesome!”

In another example, a user asks Alexa, “What’s going on today?” Alexa determines the user is likely bored and responds, “Are you in the mood for a movie?”

Providing these responses could help Amazon sell Alexa owners more stuff via voice shopping and even serve targeted advertisements from nearby restaurants and other retailers. Also, being able to determine potential health needs could help Amazon build up its health care business, especially after it agreed to buy the online pharmacy PillPack earlier this year.

NASA turns 60: The space agency has taken humanity farther than anyone else, and it has plans to go further.

Taking It to Extremes: Mix insane situations — erupting volcanoes, nuclear meltdowns, 30-foot waves — with everyday tech. Here’s what happens.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our newsletter

Join our monthly newsletter and never miss out on new stories and promotions.
Techhnews will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at We will treat your information with respect.

%d bloggers like this: