Verizon-cell phone shopping

Some unusual innovations could change the way you use your cell phone – and the way you receive coupons. There already exist apps that allow you to activate functions just by shaking your phone. And studies have shown how phones can actually detect your mood.

Now, one phone company is looking to combine those technologies – to provide you with coupons.

Feeling depressed about paying full price? Just give your phone a shake – and get a coupon!

The idea comes from Verizon, in a newly-published U.S. patent application. The ambiguously-named “Apparatus, Method, and System for Providing Digital Coupons” aims to solve the problem of mobile coupon overload. Consumers “now receive a deluge of digital coupons,” the patent application reads. “The situation has become so unpleasant that the capability of being able to manage the digital coupons has almost become a hindrance to being productive.”

So the system would show you only those coupons that you might actually want to use, based on your current location and what coupon-offering retailers are nearby. And one way it will determine what coupons might interest you, is by determining how you’re feeling at any given moment.

A “sensor may be configured to sense emotions of the consumers,” the application reads. “The emotion of the consumer may include, but is not restricted to, happy, sad, angry, excited, stressed, and the like.”

If you’re sad, maybe you’ll be presented with a coupon for a free ice cream cone at a nearby parlor. Or you might get a coupon with a greater-than-normal value if your phone decides you’re angry – all the better to keep you from taking out your frustrations on your phone.

And instead of opening an app or selecting a coupon from a long list of options, all you’d have to do is shake your phone. The system “may initiate a request for providing contextually relevant digital coupons when the consumer shakes the user device,” the patent documentation reads. It “may initiate another request for another digital coupon when a second movement is sensed.”

In other words, shake your phone for a coupon for a nearby store. If what you see doesn’t interest you, shake it again – almost like a Magic 8 Ball that gives you coupons instead of cryptic advice. (Would you like a coupon for some coffee? “Reply hazy, try again.”)

The patent application doesn’t actually get into great detail on precisely how coupons might be tailored to your mood. But the idea that your phone might know how you’re feeling is not so far-fetched. Researchers have been able to use phones to detect moods with pretty good accuracy, by examining the speed at which you type, how much the device shakes when you use it, or by tracking your movements and determining whether you’re pacing around anxiously or depressingly inactive.

“Emotion recognition technology will be an entry point for elaborate context-aware systems for future consumer electronics devices,” Samsung researcher Hosub Lee wrote in a report several years ago. “If we know the emotion of each user, we can provide more personalized services.”

So if Verizon’s idea becomes a reality, then marketers, retailers and your phone might know what coupons you want, even before you do. Could this be an indication that coupons are getting a little creepy? As your Magic 8 Ball might say – “Signs point to yes”.

Image source: Verizon Wireless

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