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Microsoft Hands Big Brother the Keys to Your Family Room November 9, 2012

Posted by geoff in News.

In a lot of lame sci-fi and horror shows, CRT TVs are used to watch people for nefarious purposes. It’s ridiculous – just because TVs can create images doesn’t mean they can sense them – but somehow the notion of symmetry has some fundamental appeal to both writers and gullible audiences (“it must go both ways: if it can make pictures, it must be able to see pictures”).

But now Microsoft has developed a way of taking us into that world for real, using their popular Kinect system:

One of Microsoft’s latest patent applications is a humdinger. It proposes to turn the Kinect camera into a snitch for movie studios, reporting back just how many friends you’ve got in your living room and what they’re watching. Think that sounds alarmist? Here’s what it actually says: “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.” It’s that blatant – a system to spy on private viewing habits.

For those not familiar with Kinect, it’s a user interface for the XBox 360 that can sense your body movements so that you can play games without a controller. Now Microsoft proposes having it watch you when you’re not playing a game, count the number of bodies in the room, send that info back to some licensing server, and determine whether you’re in violation of license rights for the media you’re enjoying.

This is creepy, but it’s nothing like what could happen ten years from now. As camera and image processing technology improve, they could expand their data gathering to include who you are, what you wear, what you eat, what you play, and who you’re making out with on the couch. In fact, I doubt that those technologies need to improve at all – I think all the component capabilities are well within the state of the art. They just need somebody to put them together.

This is the sort of situation where Microsoft could start off by saying they can give you commercial-free media access if you just let them data mine your family. It’s worked online, so why not via your TV? And from there…?


1. HayZeus - November 9, 2012

You know, for a semi-retired blogger you’re sure posting a lot, there, buddy.

Not that I don’t enjoy your posts or anything. I’m just sayin’.

2. geoff - November 9, 2012

Yeah, retiring is hard – now that the election is over, we’re starting to see some decent blogging material.

But soon I’ll be devoted to my meatspace job. Really soon. Really.

3. digitalbrownshirt - November 9, 2012

I’ve considered getting the Kinect for awhile, but this puts it in the “Hell no!” category for me.

4. Pupster - November 9, 2012

I don’t know why they would need to patent this, the system can easily do it now with no change in technology. The camera works by using video analytics, it is actually much harder to analyze arm and body movements than it is to count faces turned toward the screen.

I imagine the patent application is so Microsoft can show that this is a feature, not a bug.

5. sandy burger - November 9, 2012

Our smart phones will soon be spying on us, too.

(To some extent, they already are, but nothing I care that much about.)

6. Michael - November 9, 2012

Yeah, half of my motivation for going to church on Sunday is that I’m afraid my smartphone will report me if I stay home. It knows where I am.

I just have to remember to turn the dang sound off by switching to vibrate. It’s embarrassing if you get a call during the sermon and “Locomotive Breath” goes off in your pocket. Take my word for this.

7. ruralcounsel - November 9, 2012

Sounds like there’s another patent application for something that projects a false image into the kinect camera! Or just put a bag over it.

Kiss my alfa sierra sierra, Microsoft and Hollywood.

8. digitalbrownshirt - November 10, 2012

I don’t worry about my smart pnone because I don’t have one. I’m cheap and my wife freaked on me when I told her I wanted a ringtone that shouted “Hey, where all the white women at?” if I did get one.

She’s got no sense of humor.

9. BrewFan - November 10, 2012

dbs, you geting BO2?

10. Retired Geezer - November 10, 2012

I’ve already paid for BO2 but I ain’t gonna be there at midnight to pick it up. (Like I did for another game).

I think I’m going to buy Warfighter, it’s on sale at GameStop for $50.

11. digitalbrownshirt - November 10, 2012

I’ll have black ops on Tuesday, but I won’t be playing much until Friday night. I’m off for Thanksgiving week. We should take a shot at playing together. My son got Halo so I’m trying that out. I haven’t been online yet though.

12. BrewFan - November 11, 2012

Black Friday would be a good day to play Black Ops 2 DBS. Mitchell if you’re lurking are you getting BO2? RG, you up for some BO2 on Black Friday? Anybody else?

13. Retired Geezer - November 11, 2012

Sounds like a Plan. I may even figure out how to play the game by then.

14. digitalbrownshirt - November 12, 2012

Slight change. It’s slow at work so I’m taking tonight off. The last hour of my shift my Blanchard grinder blew a fuse and they were still trying to figure out how to fix the issue that was causing the fuse blow out when I left. It was like a sign from Treyarch that I should pick it up at midnight tonight.

15. Retired Geezer - November 12, 2012

I welcome our new overlords at Treyarch.

16. Mitchell - November 12, 2012

Brewfan, I’ve pretty much given up on video games actually. I haven’t touched the xbox in months. I’ve got crochet stuff to do and not enough hours to do it.

Y’all have fun though!

17. BrewFan - November 13, 2012

November 13, 2012 07:20:00 AM Watertown WI US Out for delivery

18. BrewFan - November 13, 2012

If you ever resume your xbox career you are always welcome to join in Mitchell.

19. digitalbrownshirt - November 13, 2012

I’m already around level 20. The game is actually better than I thought it would be.

20. Retired Geezer - November 13, 2012

Dang, DBS, level 20 already!
I decided not to go to the midnight release. I’ll go pick it up in an hour or so.

21. digitalbrownshirt - November 13, 2012

You can get up to level 10 just playing the games with a mix of A.I. and real players. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s only open to level 10 players and below. The gun xp doesn’t count towards the gun challenges, but it all counts towards overall level. Playing Nuketown for a few hours helped too. The only drawback is Nuketown is a mixture of all the game types instead of a single type so some of them have respawn delays which is ridiculous on a map like that. I entered one game and got spawn killed three times in a row, each time with a wait for respawn. I finally gave up on that room and ended up being the host.

It’s got a few glitches in it, but not compared to Borderlands 2 or Fallout: New Vegas. The campaign is pretty stupid so far. I only made it through the first chapter before heading into mp. Playing at Vetran level it’s actually pretty easy once you figure out what they actually want from the player.

22. BrewFan - November 13, 2012

*looks out the window again, wondering why the UPS man hates me*

23. Retired Geezer - November 13, 2012

Spoiler alert:
One comment at the beginning of the Campaign made me laugh.
Troops break into a mansion and finally enter the locked room.
Old man sitting in a chair when they break through the door says, “Your safety’s on, Dipshit”.

24. BrewFan - November 13, 2012

Almost done with combat training. Taking a little break and then back to it. Helps keep my mind off of tomorrow. Not that I’m maybe a leetle bit worried or anything 🙂

25. lauraw - November 14, 2012

*hugs Brewfan*

26. Retired Geezer - November 14, 2012

I saw BF was on last night and I tried to join him but I got a message saying he was using an outdated version or something like that.
I’ll write it down next time I see it.
I’m up to level 15 now.

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