The ad industry already works to serve us ads based on our interests and whatever demographics we fall into, but Microsoft could be looking to take things to the next level if a patent application is anything to go by.
Microsoft is apparently looking into serving advertisements based on users' reactions to content. No doubt you're familiar with pop-ups asking if the ads you just saw are relevant to you but a patent application from Microsoft details a method of figuring that out without having to ask you.
The application describes a scenario in which advertisers would specify desired emotional states of users they intend to target with ads as well as emotional tags linked to those desired emotional states. A user's online activities (the application mentions browsing history, webpage content, search queries, emails, instant messages, and online games) during a period would then be processed to identify a tone associated with the content the person is interacting with during that time period. Then, the system would monitor the user's reaction to that content via their facial expressions, body movements and language, and even their speech. Based on the user's reaction, the system's integrated ad engine would match ads with emotional states and serve up content based on that. This system would also have an emotional state database that would be configured to store the emotional states assigned to users, as well as advertisements and targeting information.
When you look at it from the point of view of advertisers, it's an interesting concept, and one that could help fine-tune the practice of serving relevant ads and bring it to a whole new level. However, from a consumer perspective, it's a little bit scary to think about. This patent application was filed in late 2010 but was just last week published by the USPTO.