Could Google Glass Track Your Emotional Response to Ads?

A patent shows the search giant could charge advertisers based on how users feel when looking at a billboard while wearing a gaze-tracking head-mounted device. Could that be Glass?

Could Google Glass Track Your Emotional Response to Ads?

Google Glass could get a lot creepier if the company’s latest patent is any indication. Published Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a gaze-tracking system proposed by the Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant could monitor the pupils of those wearing a head-mounted device to infer emotion and track what advertisements they’re looking at. In short: Google sees all.

The head-mounted device, presumably Google Glass, would communicate with a server, relaying information about pupil dilation captured by eye-tracking cameras. The system could store “an emotional state indication associated with one or more of the identified items” in an external scene, according to the patent.

Though the patent specifies that “personal identifying data may be removed from the data and provided to the advertisers as anonymous analytics” in an opt-out system, the idea is to charge advertisers–using a new pay-per-gaze metric–when users view ads online, on billboards, magazines, newspapers, and other types of media. “Thus, the gaze tracking system described herein offers a mechanism to track and bill offline advertisements in the manner similar to popular online advertisement schemes,” the patent states.

The fees could scale depending on the duration viewed as well as the inferred emotional state. “Furthermore, the inferred emotional state information can be provided to an advertiser (perhaps for a premium fee) so that the advertiser can gauge the success of their advertising campaign,” according to the patent.

There’s nothing that says Google will implement a gaze-tracking system into Glass or use it in any other application. But the potential is there, especially as Glass shapes up for broader adoption.

View the patent below:

[Images: USPTO, Flickr user Giuseppe Costantino]

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.



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