Verizon patents targeted advertising method that determines if viewers are laughing, cuddling, sleeping or singing

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) has filed a patent application for targeting ads to viewers based on information collected from infrared cameras and microphones that would be able to detect conversations, people, objects and even animals that are near a TV.

Verizon detection zone. Click here for a larger view. (Credit: Verizon/U.S. PTO)

If the detection system determines that a couple is arguing, a service provider would be able to send an ad for marriage counseling to a TV or mobile device in the room. If the couple utters words that indicate they are cuddling, they would receive ads for "a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers," or commercials for romantic movies, Verizon states in the patent application.

For years, technology executives have discussed the possibility of using devices such as Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Xbox 360 Kinect cameras to target advertising and programming to viewers, taking advantage of the ability to determine whether an adult or child is viewing a program. But Verizon is looking at taking targeted advertising to a new level with its patent application, which is titled "Methods and Systems for Presenting an Advertisement Associated with an Ambient Action of a User."

Similar to the way Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) targets ads to Gmail users based on the content of their emails, Verizon proposes scanning conversations of viewers that are within a "detection zone" near their TV, including telephone conversations.

"If detection facility detects one or more words spoken by a user (e.g., while talking to another user within the same room or on the telephone), advertising facility may utilize the one or more words spoken by the user to search for and/or select an advertisement associated with the one or more words," Verizon states in the patent application.

Verizon says the sensors would also be able to determine if a viewer is exercising, eating, laughing, singing, or playing a musical instrument, and target ads to viewers based on their mood. It also could use sensors to determine what type of pets or inanimate objects are in the room.

"If detection facility detects that a user is playing with a dog, advertising facility may select an advertisement associated with dogs (e.g., a dog food commercial, a flea treatment commercial, etc.)," Verizon writes in the patent application.

Several types of sensors could be linked to the targeted advertising system, including 3D imaging devices, thermographic cameras and microphones, according to the patent application.

Verizon also details how it may be able link smartphones and tablet computers that viewers are using to the detection system.

"If detection facility detects that the user is holding a mobile device, advertising facility may be configured to communicate with the mobile device to direct the mobile device to present the selected advertisement. Accordingly, not only may the selected advertisement be specifically targeted to the user, but it may also be delivered right to the user's hands," Verizon writes in the patent application.

The targeted advertising system is one of the innovations that Verizon could potentially develop through a joint innovation lab it has created with Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks. Earlier this month, Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis said that engineers from Comcast and Verizon have been meeting on the West Coast to work on developing products and services. The innovation lab, which is focused on developing advanced products that take advantage of cable programming and the Verizon Wireless platform and devices, was formed after Comcast and other major MSOs agreed to sell Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum to Verizon last year.

Officials at Verizon declined to comment about the patent application.

The inventors named on the patent are Verizon Solutions Engineer Brian Roberts, Manager of Convergence Platforms Anthony Lemus, Verizon Wireless Director of Product Design Michael D'Argenio and Verizon Technical Manager Don Relyea. Verizon filed the patent application in May 2011. It was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Thursday.

For more:
- see the patent application

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