Amazon, Google seek patents to expand voice monitoring capabilities: 5 takeaways

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Amazon and Google have applied for patents as they explore monitoring capabilities for their devices, The New York Times reports.

Here are five takeaways on the patents, many of which are still being considered.

1. The patents both companies are seeking would expand what their products can monitor. This information could be used to pinpoint users' interests, which could then be used to select product recommendations and ads. Amazon and Google emphasize their voice-enabled home devices only record and process audio when users push a button or say a key phrase.

2. In one of Amazon's applications, the company describes a "voice sniffer algorithm" that could be used on tablets and e-book products to examine data in real time when words like "dislike," "bought," or "love" are said. Amazon detailed an example where two friends would receive different offers — one for the San Diego Zoo and one for a Wine of the Month Club membership — based on their phone call.

3. Some of Google's patent applications concern using audio and visual cues in users' homes. For instance, Google is seeking a patent for an audio monitoring system that could help determine if a child is getting into "mischief" at home. The system would use speech patterns and pitch to know if a child is present. It would then attempt to pick up whispering or movement, and could tell a smart speaker to "provide a verbal warning," The New York Times reports.

4. In a statement to the Times,  Amazon said it takes "privacy seriously" and did "not use customers' voice recordings for targeted advertising." As for the patent, Amazon said the "forward-looking patent applications ... explore the full possibilities of new technology" and "take multiple years to receive and do not necessarily reflect current developments to products and services."

5. Google told the publication it doesn't "use raw audio to extrapolate moods, medical conditions or demographic information … All devices that come with the Google Assistant, including Google Home, are designed with user privacy in mind."

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