Sonos’s Really Interesting Patent App: Play Music Based on Biometrics Like Sweat

Sonos patent application describes how biometric data like perspiration, pulse or tone of voice could inform an audio system to play music or other content that is most conducive to the listener’s well being.

Sonos’s Really Interesting Patent App: Play Music Based on Biometrics Like Sweat

As Sonos's patent application explains it, biomedical sensors would take readings from individuals to ascertain their physical and emotional state, and then play music that is most conducive to the person's desired state. : Photo illustration by CE Pro

Imagine you’re sweating, your heart is racing and your voice comes across as panicked. In the future, Sonos might pick up these cues and play just the right music to calm your nerves. The idea is outlined in a recently published patent application by Sonos entitled, “Multimedia Experience According to Biometrics.”

The application (submitted in September 2016) describes how a user would consent to having data collected on biomedical measures such as pulse, perspiration, movement and temperature. The biometric information would be cross-referenced to the person's listening history and preferences. 

Through machine learning, a system could ascertain the most desirable biometric conditions for a person, and then play the appropriate audio to guide the individual to the desired state.

Music, Moods & the Mind

The 2016 “Music Makes it Home” study conducted by Sonos, Apple Music and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin revealed several positive responses to music being played at home.

80% of participants said chores were “easier to complete” when music was playing.

18% said sex was better.

Couples reported 66% more intimacy.

58% said food tasted better.

Participants were 85% more likely to invite people over

Respondents were 24% less irritable on average and felt 25% more inspired.

In general, respondents reported a 16% increase in positive feelings

People become physically closer with music. The average distance between household members decreased by 12% during the  study.

The patent application notes:

For instance, if a user previously played a certain type of music while having a certain set of biological characteristics, the media playback system may play back that certain type of music when the user is again exhibiting that certain set of biological characteristics. 

Research has shown again and again that music can have a profound effect on moods and emotions, given the undeniable link between music and the brain.

The right music (or other sound) can alleviate physical pain, enhance memory, reduce depression and stimulate new neural connections. (Start here for some of the studies, but the scientific literature is vast and convincing.)

Sonos itself co-sponsored a landmark study released in 2016 called “Music Makes it Home,” in collaboration with Apple Music and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. Levitin goes so far as to suggest music could alter worldwide demographics.

“If music actually causes people to have sex more often, we could see a change in the birthrate,” he says in the report (see sidebar, right). “Or we could also see a change in the divorce rate. I think the next five to 10 years are going to be interesting.”

The Sonos inventors suggest entire industries could evolve around the neurochemical connections between music and health, as informed by biometric data. For example:

Such biometric data of individuals may provide additional insights to cloud services to improve algorithms in recommending new media content or improving discovery of media content based on characteristics of the individual (e.g., current mood). In some cases, such biometric data may improve marketing and/or advertisements by tailoring such content to the characteristics of the individual. 

Adding Environmental Data to Biometrics

The inventors describe additional data points that could supplement biometrics to determine a person’s mental state. The more the data, the better the chances of a system playing the right selection of audio from the appropriate device, at the optimal volume.

Social media data, for one, could provide useful guidance:

For example, the computing device may receive social media data corresponding to an individual's social media status, comments, friends, news feed, likes, shares, check-ins, photos, groups, and events, among other data available via various social media services and applications. This type of data may be used to infer mood (e.g., happy), activity (e.g., studying), or occasion (e.g., birthday).

In Biometrics We Trust

The idea of biometric data informing music selections has implications way beyond audio. 

Video, lighting, indoor air quality, diet, sleep, weather, physical activity, posture and many other factors can affect moods, mental health and physiological conditions such as pain and rashes.

We can imagine a time when multiple biomedical indicators will dictate (if desired) temperature settings, lighting schedules, wake-up times, food orders, doctors' appointments … and of course music selections.

The optimal conditions will be applied at your home, work, hotel room and self-driving car.

Btw, Sonos, check out Well Living Lab, a Mayo Clinic initiative. — JJ

Activity and profiles collected from networked devices could provide further clues to a user’s preferences and state of mind at various times, in different environments. The information can help correlate music and moods for an individual:

For example, user history may include an individual's location, proximity routines, motion history, movement routines, playback history, play settings, usage history, and search history, among other playback conditions, music properties, and/or habits corresponding to an individual.

The patent application describes still more methods for gathering informative data, such as beacons for location, computer vision for emotion-recognition, and temperature and light sensors for environmental conditions.

All of this data can be crunched, and then combined with music-playing systems for optimal wellness conditions. This section of the patent application, though challenging to read, may sum it up best:

In other examples, based on determining that the one or more first and second biological characteristics (i) correspond to each other and (ii) indicate that the individual is in an attentive listening state, the computing device may cause [control device] to display recommended media content that the individual may enjoy. The recommend media content may be determined based on the media content that is currently playing and/or the current mood of the individual. In some instances, the computing device may generate a new playlist that includes a plurality of recommended media content that the individual may enjoy. In other instances, the computing device may add recommended media content that the individual may enjoy to a playback queue in order to cause one or more [playback devices] to play the recommended media content following the current media content. 

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson


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