Kinect watches you, monitors your TV viewing habits with this new tech

There are a few parody videos floating around the Internet on how the Kinect is always watching you, and is plotting the forthcoming robot apoclypse. As it turns out, your Kinect might one day actually spy on you, except it’s not for Skynet; it’s for Microsoft.

According to Gizmodo, Microsoft filed a patent application in April 2011 for a new user-monitoring technology for the Kinect. Although the patent published on November 1st is nowhere near as illegal or creepy as constant surveillance, it does use the Xbox add-on to watch you as you watch a film.

The patent, titled “Content Distribution Regulation by Viewing User,” describes a way that content providers (such as HBO or Miramax) could use your Kinect to identify their viewers. While you watch TV, your Kinect camera could be used to count the number of people in the room, and possibly identify who they are. For the most part, it sounds like some mostly harmless—albeit invasive—consumer market research.

But things get quite murky when the patent mentions that the content providers could also use the Kinect to manage how their licenses are consumed. This could potentially allow companies to charge you more for each additional person who watches a show, or prevent you from watching something if there are too many people in the room.

Here’s a portion of the patent description so you can draw your own conclusions.

“Content is distributed to consuming devices, such as televisions, set-top boxes and digital displays, with an associated license option on the number of individual consumers or viewers allowed to consume the content. The limitation may comprise a number of user views, a number of user views over time, a number of simultaneous user views, views tied to user identities, views limited to user age or any variation or combination thereof, all tied to the number of actual content consumers allowed to view the content. Consumers are presented with a content selection and a choice of licenses allowing consumption of the content. In one embodiment, a license manager on the consuming device or on a content providers system manages license usage and content consumption. The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken.”

If content providers put this type of viewership control in place, it could lead to a whole new nightmarish version of digital rights management (DRM) that locks up yout TV as soon as one more person tries to watch a show. Personally, I like it when I watch a Blu-ray movie that doesn’t stop playing because the rest of my family is there.

In any case, keep in mind that just because a company files for a patent doesn’t mean that it plans on actually using that patent in a product.

What do you think? Is there any chance that this will ever actually make its way into a product? Leave a comment.

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