Oracle’s Metaverse Ad Tracker Builds Profiles on User Behaviors

The patent highlights the potential that artificial reality may have for immersive and native advertising.

Photo of an Oracle patent
Photo via U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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While much of Big Tech’s attention has shifted the focus to AI, Oracle may be looking to squeeze some money out of the metaverse. 

The company is seeking to patent “contextual targeting based on metaverse monitoring.” This tech aims to capture information about user behaviors and interactions in artificial reality contexts to distribute “contextually targeted advertisements.” 

“As metaverses evolve into the mainstream, many business(es) are endeavoring to find effective techniques for placing advertisements inside virtual environments,” Oracle said in the filing. 

Oracle’s system deploys an “observer avatar” to capture user audio, video, image, and text data, along with metadata – such as time, location, and usernames – describing the surrounding scene. The observer avatar can be an active participant in the metaverse, such as a character that users can interact with, or a passive observer. 

Those observations can be used to determine “contextual segments,” or descriptors of the objects, places, and people surrounding it, to classify portions of the surroundings. For example, in a virtual home design platform, the system may watch which kinds of furniture the user chooses, and pick up contextual descriptions such as “modern,” “classic,” or “industrial.” 

This information is used to build a profile on the user, Oracle noted, with information on the actions or behaviors they displayed in their environment. This profile is used for targeted advertising, both in the artificial reality environment and in “different communication channels external to the metaverse,” Oracle said. 

Artificial reality can fully immerse someone in an experience, which can be incredibly useful in advertising, said Jake Maymar, AI strategist at The Glimpse Group. And using targeting in the way Oracle’s patent suggests could open the door for metaverse ads that don’t feel like ads at all, he said. 

“You can create a world that people want to return to, and you can build something really powerful for brands,” said Maymar. 

But this method of targeting is useful not just for creating ads, but for the data itself that’s collected, Maymar noted. Many tech companies are working on ways to read facial expressions, eye movements, and neural signals. Using those capabilities to track user reactions to ads could unlock an in-depth pool of data that allows for even more personalized targeting, he said. 

The problem, however, is the potential for backlash, said Maymar. “People react very strongly to ads, especially if you can’t escape it.” This is where native advertising may come in handy, he said. “It’s not intrusive, and you don’t really think about it. You don’t even really realize that it’s advertising.” 

Though a patent like this may be expected from a company like Meta or Apple, it’s a bit out of left field for an enterprise-focused company like Oracle. But Oracle’s bread and butter is data and database products. And at the end of the day, data is at the heart of this patent, said Maymar, detailing a way to access and store a large amount of useful data for advertisers. And as tech firms seek to recoup some money from expensive metaverse bets and prepare for wider adoption of AR, he added, Oracle may see a lucrative opportunity.