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Microsoft develops mood-matching ad engine

Feeling blue? Prozac ads heading your way, thanks to Redmond

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Microsoft has filed for a technology patent which will allow advertisers to push their advertising to consumers based on their emotional states and recent behaviours and activities.

The platform works across devices, tracking and monitoring the online activity data of consumers stored in logs including browsing history, web page content, search queries, emails, instant messages, videos from webcams, gestures from a computing device, e.g., Microsoft Kinect and results from online games.

The technology created by a group of resident Microserfers goes on to process the online activity identifying a tone associated with content that the user interacted with, receiving an indication of the user's reaction to the content and assigning an emotional state to the user based on the tone of the content and the indication of the user's reaction to the content.

The user's reaction is identified from facial expressions of the user captured by an image capture device during the time period of usage. Advertisers then provide targeting data that includes the desired emotional states of users it intends to target and the ads are duly served to unsuspecting emo targets.

While Microsoft’s Kinect is an obvious conduit for this people-reading mechanism, it is perhaps the subtler methods of extracting user’s emotional states that is more sinister ie as the patent explains: “... if the user is accessing several sites about illness or diseases, the advertisement engine may assign a negative emotional state, such as, anxious, sad, or nervous, to the user.” And on a more granular level “the user information may include search histories, cookies, user identifiers, online activities, assigned emotional states, and passwords. The system information may include Internet protocol addresses, cached Webpages, and system utilization.”

The patent states that client devices that can used include, without limitation, personal digital assistants, smart phones, laptops, personal computers, gaming devices, or any other suitable client computing device. “In some embodiments, the client devices include image capture and voice capture devices. The image capture devices include cameras, video cameras, etc. The voice capture devices include microphones, recorders, etc.”.

To adland the engine is being pitched as having high levels of monetization value as Microsoft claims that it will cut through to core focus on targeted consumers. As the patent suggests: “When the user is emotionally sad, advertisements about club parties would not be appropriate and may seem annoying or negative to the user. Online help or technical support advertisers want their advertisements to appear when the user is demonstrating a confused or frustrated emotional state."

The application was made public last week but was filed in December 2010.®

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