Verizon patents DVR that tracks your actions

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Verizon wants to watch you while you watch TV.

The communications company has filed for a patent of a DVR that can monitor your actions to better target advertisements to you. According to the details of the patent—published online Nov. 29 after it was first filed in May 2011—if you’re working out, talking on the phone, or holding hands with your significant other, the shows you watch would play corresponding ads.

Verizon’s set-top box would even parse words from your conversations and detect moods to better market to you; the patent application describes sensing a viewer’s stress and advertising aromatherapy candles or a resort.

“If a user is watching a television program, a traditional targeted advertising system fails to account for what the user is doing (e.g. eating, interacting with another user, sleeping, etc.) while the user is watching the television program,” Verizon wrote in its patent application filing. “This limits the effectiveness, personalization, and/or adaptability of the targeted advertising.”

It’s a little creepy, which may be why Verizon has yet to put the patent to use. Another wrinkle: If you’re using a DVR, you’re probably fast-forwarding through commercials. So this seems like an idea that needs a little more time on the drawing board.

Besides, ideas for monitoring technology implementation, like patents filed by Comcast and Google, have yet to come to market.

Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect records biometric data to incorporate your movements into games, but the company has also experimented with interactive ads, a concept called NUads that it previewed in summer 2011.

Aside from motion-detection technology’s applications in gaming (as in the Kinect), people aren’t aware of plans to expand its uses, says Gartner analyst Brian Blau.

“I don’t think consumers are even aware yet that they may be tracked in this way,” Blau says. “As time goes on, people will be more aware, and they have every right to be concerned about the data companies will get about their physical motions or activities.”

It’s also unclear if technology has advanced to the ambitious levels detailed in Verizon’s patent application.

In a statement to NBC News, Verizon said it “has a well-established track record of respecting its customers’ privacy and protecting their personal information. As a company that prizes innovation, Verizon takes pride in its innovators whose work is represented in our patents and patent applications. While we do not comment on pending patent applications, such futuristic patent filings by innovators are routine.”

Regardless of whether Verizon’s patent turns into in a tangible product on the market anytime soon, there are privacy concerns to be addressed. What will companies do with the data they collect from tracking your actions and conversations? Will you be able to opt in and out?

“That issue will never cease,” Blau says. “We’ve jumped into the land of hyper-tracking, hyper-personalization. These types of technologies will only become more prevalent in the future. Kinect, gesture-driven gaming, was just the start.”

This story, "Verizon patents DVR that tracks your actions" was originally published by PCWorld.

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