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Microsoft’s TV Spy: Kinect to tell how many are watching

Microsoft has won a patent for a “content presentation system” which appears to track and limit the number of people watching a movie on your laptop, tablet, phone or Xbox 360.

Designed to enforce the DRM terms of on-demand movies, the system would use the viewer-facing cameras of gadgets – like Microsoft’s own Xbox 360 and Kinect – to count the number of heads watching and “directly charging for each identified user in the viewing area.”

So instead of paying a flat fee, you’d be paying per head. If you were planning a movie night you might need to have a whip round before all of your mates pile into the living room. 

Microsoft's TV Spy: Kinect to tell how many are watching

The patent also suggests that “viewers may be uniquely identified and a count of the viewers determined,” meaning that Microsoft could build up a picture of user viewing habits.

As well as the identities of viewers the “age and identity restrictions can be applied in this embodiment as well,” ensuring that no underage and sensitive eyes are present during your Pier Paolo Pasolini marathon.

On-demand providers would also be able to harvest more information about what types of people are watching which movies as “camera or capture device data is transmitted back to the content provider during a performance of the content.”

It’s obvious that this kind of software would be a hit with rights holders who want any much out of their content as possible. Content providers are always tweaking recommendations engines to get a better picture of who is watching what – Patent US20120278904 might let them do this, literally.

Quite how this will be sold to customers is another matter. As this technology could also be applied to phones and tablets with a front-facing camera, it could be popular with parents who want to distract their sprogs with Netflix and Lovefilm but don’t want them to see anything too violent or sweary. 

How it’ll prevent users from either disconnecting their Kinects or putting a bit of black tape over a webcam lens is another thing altogether…

Image credit: Flickr user whatleydude

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