Google Glass Patent Tracking Ad Views
August 21, 2013

Google Glass Patent Knows Which Ads You Watch

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

In another bid to build more directed and targeted ads, Google has been granted a patent for a system that knows which ads its users' eyeballs are ogling. The technology would be used in their Glass wearable computing device and could provide a way for Google to monetize these specs.

The patent, filed in May 2001 and granted last Tuesday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), could potentially let advertisers know if users reacted in an emotionally positive way to the ads. The system is described as a “pay-per-view” approach towards ads, charging advertisers only for the ads wearers actually see. Google has made no comment about the patent filing, but they currently aren’t allowing any “Free with ads” apps on their Google Glass platform.

"We hold patents on a variety of ideas. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services; some don't," explained a Google spokesperson when asked about the patent. "Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents."

The patent filing, first discovered by Fast Company last week, describes a system which uses Glass’s eye-tracking cameras to measure how much the wearer’s pupils dilate. This could come in handy particularly when a wearer is being delivered an ad. This, says the filing, could determine "an emotional state indication associated with one or more of the identified items.” The eye-tracking system is also intelligent enough to know if the wearer is watching the content being displayed directly in front of their pupil or if they’re watching something in the real world.

This information may then be used by Google to either sell ad space to advertisers or help them build better, targeted ads.

Google calls their proposed new monetization system “pay-per-gaze” and would only charge advertisers for the ads wearers actually saw. If someone in Google Glass is looking away from the prism in front of their eye or isn’t wearing Glass, advertisers may not have to pay for the ads they've channeled into the wearable device.

What’s more, the patent could allow Glass to know when a user sees an ad in real life, thereby letting advertisers know which ad space is most effective. Google explains the system in the filing this way: “Pay per gaze advertising need not be limited to on-line advertisements, but rather can be extended to conventional advertisement media including billboards, magazines, newspapers, and other forms of conventional print media. Thus, the gaze tracking system described herein offers a mechanism to track and bill offline advertisements in the manner similar to popular online advertisement schemes.”

Google, no stranger to controversy surrounding privacy and their handling of customer data, has also included a portion in the filing to preempt some of the inevitable backlash they’ll receive if or when eye-tracking technology arrives on Glass.

“In one embodiment, users may be given opt-in or opt-out privileges to control the type of data being gathered, when the data is being gathered, or how the gathered data may be used or with whom it may be shared."

Google has already confronted privacy concerns with Glass following a Seattle bar’s preemptive ban of the device before it ever became commercially available. Specifically, many became worried when it was discovered Glass could potentially run facial recognition apps.

The company addressed this issue in June saying, “…we won't be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time.” Glass is expected to be available to the public by the end of this year.