Verizon Device to Monitor TV Viewers, Tailor Ads

Dennis Faas's picture

Verizon is developing a new product that would decide what TV advertisements to show particular viewers, based on their past viewing behavior. The new system could even select commercials by taking into account everything about you, right down to your mood.

Although the company originally filed the patent application in May 2011, only recently has that application gone public. Other firms can now object if they believe the technology described isn't original.

According to the application, one of the limits of television advertising is that it doesn't take into account what the viewer is doing while watching an ad.

Verizon believes that this "limits the effectiveness, personalization, and/or adaptability of the targeted advertising." (Source:

Verizon's product would reportedly work through a digital video recorder rather than the TV itself. The idea would be to use a camera, microphone, thermal sensor or some combination of the three to detect viewer activity.

Happy Humming Means Happy Commercials

The company says that if the microphone picks up humming or whistling sounds, it could analyze whether the tune is upbeat or mournful and deliver appropriate advertisements.

The patent application also suggests using voice recognition to detect keywords in viewers' speech. Verizon believes such a capability would help tailor ads to the person watching TV.

The new Verizon system would also take into account the way viewers interact with one another. For example, if the system "detects that a couple is arguing / fighting with each other, [the system] may select an advertisement associated [with] marriage / relationship counseling."

On the other hand, if the thermal sensor notices the couple cuddling, then ads could include "a commercial for a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers, a commercial including a trailer for an upcoming romantic comedy movie, etc." (Source:

Implementation Plans Far Off

So far, Verizon hasn't announced any plans to implement this new technology. Perhaps this is a 'defensive' registration designed to make sure other firms don't develop the same idea and then claim exclusive rights to it.

It's hard to see this system working well in practice. Implementation could only be done with the full permission of the viewers, and they'd likely want a steep discount on their cable bill, if not a cash payment, to give their assent to the system.

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