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Alexa, the voice of Amazon's smart devices, can tell you a lot of things.
The weather, traffic conditions, the news; it goes on and on. Now Amazon has patented a technology for Alexa to tell you whether you are sick or depressed.
When technology can detect your voice, your face, and your heart rate, it sounds like a healthy step forward for artificial intelligence. There is a catch, however. It looks like Alexa wants to be your pharmacist, too.
According to reports, Amazon's patent describes a voice assistant that can detect "physical or emotional abnormality." For example, it will discern a cough, an excited or a sad voice.
"A cough or sniffle, or crying, may indicate that the user has a specific physical or emotional abnormality," the patent says.
It's all good until Alexa takes that information and tries to monetize it. She even admits it.
"For example, certain content, such as content related to cough drops or flu medicine, may be targeted towards users who have sore throats," the patent says.
Pushing an ad for cough drops isn't exactly pushing drugs, but it's an issue. What if Alexa gives a user the wrong suggestion for a condition, counselor?
Ars Technica sees another issue. The ezine says regulators want Amazon and other companies to consider customer privacy if they pass along health information to vendors.
It's just a matter of time. Doctors and lawyers already know that smart robots are doing their jobs. Pharmacists may have to make room for Dr. Alexa, too.
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