Advertisers spend heaps of cash on branding, bannering, and product-placing. But does anyone really look at those ads? Google could be betting that advertisers will pay to know whether consumers are actually looking at their billboards, magazine spreads, and online ads. The company was just granted a patent for "pay-per-gaze" advertising, which would employ a Google Glass-like eye sensor in order to identify when consumers are looking at advertisements in the real world and online.

From the patent application, which was filed in May 2011:

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.

The idea is to measure how long a person looks at an ad, as well as their emotional response as indicated by pupil dilation. The company, by now very used to allegations of privacy invasion, was careful to preempt the Big Brother argument by noting that users can opt out of "pay-per-gaze" tracking and data will be anonymized.

The patent also includes a provision for "latent pre-searching," which would display search results over a user's field of vision using Glass or another wearable computer. The data on these searches would, of course, be stored and could be used for future ad-targeting.

The system would show how long you look at an ad and your emotional response

Even if this patent is never used in a product, eye-tracking for advertisements online and in the real world seems inevitable as advertising analytics get more sophisticated and devices like Google Glass become more common.