On Thursday, news broke that Apple had bought Emotient, a San Diego-based startup that builds technology that can recognize emotions based on people's facial expressions.
Emotient's technology can use video from regular cameras, scan it to find faces, and then analyze the facial expressions on the people in the video to determine, instantaneously, how people are feeling.
It's unclear what Apple plans to do with Emotient's technology — Apple said in a statement to Tech Insider that it "buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."
But it's fun to speculate! So here are some of the things Apple could do with Emotient:
Instantly predict what app you want to use:
Jan Dawson, chief analyst at the technology research firm Jackdaw Research, speculated that Apple could use the technology to help Siri suggest better apps for you at any given moment. For example, iOS 9, the latest update to Apple's iPhone and iPad operating system, includes Siri App suggestions: Swipe down on your homescreen, and you'll see four apps Siri thinks you'll use at that moment. Apple, Dawson said, could use "the front facing camera to gauge your mood and be more proactive about suggestions."
Analyze your health:
In a video about Emotient, Marian Bartlett, a founder of Emotient and the company's lead scientist, calls healthcare "a major area" for the company.
"Emotion is like the missing vital sign," Bartlett says. "Facial expression conveys information about depression or PTSD, and we can also measure information about things like levels of pain."
Apple is making a major play into health. Its Health app is a dashboard for data like heart rate, steps walked, calories burned, blood sugar, cholesterol, and more. It could incorporate Emotient's technology so you can easily and accurately keep track of your emotional health, too.
Track down photos:
Maybe one day you'll be able to search Apple's Photos app for "happy photos."
Supercharge the advertising platform, iAd:
Apple can currently use information like where you live, what you've downloaded (apps, movies, books, music, etc.), what music you listen to in Apple Music, and what you read and subscribe to in Apple News, in order to target advertising to you. And, of course, it could do an even better job targeting ads to you if it knows how you feel at a particular moment.
Customize the retail experience:
Apple could use the technology in its retail stores to gauge consumers' shopping experiences and improve or alter certain aspects of the store experience.
Market-test people everywhere:
One of Emotient's promo videos plays up its benefit to advertisers and marketers, showing a focus group while they watch a Superbowl ad.
This, the narrator says in the video, can "help advertisers judge the impact of their ads."
Test original programming:
Variety reported over the summer that Apple was exploring getting into original content. The company could use Emotient's technology for screen-testing, another use outlined in Emotient's promotional video.
None of the above!
Sometimes, it's clear what Apple will do with an acquisition. For example, when the company bought AuthenTec, the Florida-based company that made fingerprint sensors, a few years ago, many people correctly assumed that the sensor would find its way to iPhones and help enable mobile payments.
With Emotient, it's not so clear. Maybe the technology will never find its way to a consumer product.
We'll just have to wait and see.