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Microsoft Patent Lets Hollywood Watch You with Camera

By - Source: Eurogamer | B 34 comments

Microsoft's patent wants to control content playback based on the number of viewers in front of the screen.

OK Microsoft, now you're driving into Crazy Town. Eurogamer has stumbled across a patent filed by the Redmond company back in April 2011 – and published on November 1 – called "Content Distribution Regulation by Viewing User". It essentially controls media playback using a camera (like Kinect) by seeing who is actually watching the movie or TV show. If there are too many individuals seated in front of the screen, the media will not play.

Well hello, Big Brother.

"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 patent states. "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."

The patent goes on to explain that consumers are presented with a content selection and a choice of licenses allowing consumption of that content. "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," the patent adds.

In other words, the video will stop and users are forced to purchase an additional license for anyone outside the current limit. However, as Eurogamer points out, there may be a grace period before the movie or TV episode halts, allowing for non-viewers to pass through the room without interrupting playback and requiring extra cash.

The patent doesn't actually list Microsoft's Kinect as the source camera, but rather describes a content licensing and monitoring process that could even take advantage of a built-in front-facing camera on a smartphone or tablet. However the Redmond company does reference the Xbox console (612) and its Kinect accessory (620) in one paragraph just to make sure all the bases are covered.

"A user within the display area of the display 616 [HDTV] may be tracked using the capture device 620 such that the gestures and/or movements of the user may be captured to determine the number of people present, whether users are viewing content and/or may be interpreted as controls that may be used to affect the application being executed by computing environment 612," the patent reads. "Such information may also be used to determine whether the tracked user is viewing content presented by a content provider."

It would be easy to assume that consumers could simply disconnect the Kinect sensor to prevent Microsoft and content owners from peeping into their living room. Even more, if the Xbox Infinity (2013) will have a built-in Kinect sensor, then all users would have to do is block the camera. But Microsoft and content owners will likely anticipate that kind of behavior and implement a content block until the camera can see the viewers again.


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  • 27 Hide
    aftcomet , November 7, 2012 12:43 AM
    While this won't seem like a big deal to most, it won't be long before they're recording what we wear, how we live, what we eat, etc.

    People are gradually having their privacy tolerances desensitized. They need to wake up and know where to draw the line. Look at Facebook and the web. So many people pour their entire lives into a digital profile.

    I'll never in a million years let Kinect monitor how many people are in my house.
  • 23 Hide
    frombehind , November 7, 2012 12:57 AM
    simple solution... If i am being told by companies that I may not view content that I am WILLING to pay for, then I will simply waltz on over to my favorite Bit Torrent site, and download it for free.
  • 21 Hide
    vvwwvv , November 7, 2012 12:45 AM
    This would just become another reason to use PS3 over 360
Other Comments
  • 27 Hide
    aftcomet , November 7, 2012 12:43 AM
    While this won't seem like a big deal to most, it won't be long before they're recording what we wear, how we live, what we eat, etc.

    People are gradually having their privacy tolerances desensitized. They need to wake up and know where to draw the line. Look at Facebook and the web. So many people pour their entire lives into a digital profile.

    I'll never in a million years let Kinect monitor how many people are in my house.
  • 3 Hide
    epicdan , November 7, 2012 12:45 AM
    it's called positioning the camera so that only one person is seen.
  • 21 Hide
    vvwwvv , November 7, 2012 12:45 AM
    This would just become another reason to use PS3 over 360
  • 19 Hide
    ddpruitt , November 7, 2012 12:50 AM
    Simple solution: Put a picture in front of the camera!
  • -7 Hide
    IndignantSkeptic , November 7, 2012 12:51 AM
    I think I already talked about this idea on the forums here ages ago so it pisses me off that someone else can just patent it. I'm going to go see if I can find that old post. I think I remember it got majorly thumbed down.
  • 21 Hide
    LORD_ORION , November 7, 2012 12:53 AM
    Ahh... so you are going to try and gouge the people who actually pay for things?

    That will work out well, I'm sure.
  • 23 Hide
    frombehind , November 7, 2012 12:57 AM
    simple solution... If i am being told by companies that I may not view content that I am WILLING to pay for, then I will simply waltz on over to my favorite Bit Torrent site, and download it for free.
  • 0 Hide
    ltdementhial , November 7, 2012 12:57 AM
    vvwwvvThis would just become another reason to use PS3 over 360


    Do you mean PS4 over 720?
  • 2 Hide
    ltdementhial , November 7, 2012 12:58 AM
    Well i truly don't think to much people would buy a product with an "spectators limitation feature", tought the first thing in to my mind when reading this was that someone is pushing microsoft with this i doing this, i mean well microsoft have his "evil" history and darkside yeah but this is soooo apple that i truly don't think someone at microsoft actually said "hey guys i have a great idea...lets block content if X number is infront of the tv" im very very intrigued with this.

    Quote:
    But Microsoft and content owners will likely anticipate that kind of behavior and implement a content block until the camera can see the viewers again.


    what if i took a picture of me sitting in front of the sensor from the sensor POV and then put that picture in front of the sensor and 30 people in my couch watch the tv with me?
  • 3 Hide
    clonazepam , November 7, 2012 1:01 AM
    epicdanit's called positioning the camera so that only one person is seen.

    ddpruittSimple solution: Put a picture in front of the camera!


    lol... the camera isn't looking at your face. It's looking at the reflections on your eyeballs, making sure you are watching and not wasting bandwidth... :) 
  • 8 Hide
    A Bad Day , November 7, 2012 1:38 AM
    "But Microsoft and content owners will likely anticipate that kind of behavior and implement a content block until the camera can see the viewers again."

    Hello Redbox, Netflix, and Bit-Torrent! F*** off Microsoft and the content owners.
  • -2 Hide
    king smp , November 7, 2012 2:21 AM
    watch in a mirror?
  • 13 Hide
    mrmez , November 7, 2012 2:47 AM
    Id MUCH rather have M$ watch me masturbate to a paid copy My Little Pony, than pirate it.
  • 2 Hide
    danwat1234 , November 7, 2012 2:51 AM
    vvwwvvThis would just become another reason to use PS3 over 360

    Or bittorrent
  • 2 Hide
    beayn , November 7, 2012 3:16 AM
    While they did file the patent, it's highly unlikely anything will come of it. It is probably better that MS did it rather than say the MPAA who would not hesitate to implement it.
  • 3 Hide
    dormantreign , November 7, 2012 3:47 AM
    Its okay....I have black tape.
  • 1 Hide
    gti88 , November 7, 2012 4:03 AM
    Nobody will use it. It is one of those ridiculous ideas that never come to life.
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , November 7, 2012 4:32 AM
    Thing like this should not even be patentable. Patent system is still as screwed up as always.

    Hmm, in fact, since thing like this is patentable, all pirates need to do now is to patent all form of monitoring mechanism and NEVER implement any. Any company which would implement similar concept in the future will be sued. How about that for a complete turnaround?
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , November 7, 2012 4:40 AM
    K-zon

    Sounds like invason of privacy by means of regards to rights holding within use of products, goods, and services based on licensed interest within a means of "ownership" to say.

    Which you might be able to say is fine but is probably left to just where say a place of such without for use on is had to make the difference.

    Otherwise of such to basically is within means to say of such to on without of for on place with within regards on to a point of that has none about. Probably cost and all along within such of such forth.

    As of means to on about in regards to is to say then by of should not be short to any or that of regard/s with to the interest of also without say interest of conflict along or about almost within again to say means of with or without to or of.

    Probably still not the say best interest of debate but maybe not still short interest to of to say at a time.
  • 3 Hide
    freggo , November 7, 2012 4:40 AM
    ltdementhial... and 30 people in my couch watch the tv with me?


    Man, that's one seriously big couch. How big must be the living room ? :-)

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