It's a patent that sounds like a plot description for a science-fiction movie or the result of Apple's Siri and Google's AdSense mating. With it, Verizon could program its set-top boxes to survey a room to determine relevant ads to display either on your television or mobile phone. Sound a bit scary? It kind of is.
Verizon's technology can work a variety of ways. For starters, it can listen in on conversations - whether it be with someone else in the room or on the phone - and pick out keywords that would aide it in its duties. In reality, it's simple stuff in this day and age, but that doesn't make it any less off-putting. Imagine arguing with your significant other and then seeing marriage counseling ads on the TV - or better, cuddling and then seeing ads for contraceptives!
For those who've begun to search the top of this page for a publishing date, let me assure you that this is not April 1.
Verizon will also be able to determine your mood; happy, sad, excited or depressed - it'll know. In fact, it may determine you're annoyed at its ability to read your mind and then send the definition of "Irony" straight to your mobile phone.
You don't likely need yet another reason to be a little wary of this technology, but I'll give you one. These set-top boxes can also be configured with infrared sensors that draw outlines of inanimate objects in the room along with pets. The possibilities for what it can surmise about you, your family and even your room are endless.
If there's an upside to any of this, it's that Verizon wouldn't be able to enable this sort of functionality without your permission, though if it takes the route so many companies do and bury that information deep into a EULA, you can be sure it won't go unnoticed for too long.