Microsoft applies for patent on technology to count users watching streamed content

Nov 07, 2012 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org)—Microsoft Corporation has applied for a patent on new technology that would use a Kinect-like device to count and even perhaps identify people as they watch streamed content. Its purpose would be to allow content providers to restrict the number of people viewing content, or the number of times certain individuals could watch a particular video stream. Such technology they note, could also allow for collecting payment for watching content based on the number of people watching, or prevent minors from viewing adult material.

In patent application 20120278904, dated November 1, 2012, ; Kathryn Stone Perez, Alex Kipman and Andrew Fuller, assignees of Microsoft Corporation, applied for a patent on that would be used in conjunction with a televised output device to allow for counting and/or identifying people that are present at the viewing of paid-for streamed content. In the application, the new technology is called "Content distribution regulation by viewing user."

With the patent application, Microsoft is looking to work with content providers such as those that make movies and television shows to help in deterring piracy and to serve as a middle-man between consumers and content producers. In its patent application, Microsoft envisions a scenario whereby consumers would be required to have a Kinect-like device attached to their viewing system in order to purchase content. The system could then be used to monitor the people that are in the room watching the content as it is streamed. Doing so would allow to charge by the person, or to limit the number allowed to view what is being offered. Also, by identifying consumers, the system could also prevent those that have already seen the content from watching it more than the number of times that have been paid for and of course access could be restricted based on ratings and the estimated ages of those in attendance.

hasn't publicly commented on the but many in the media have already condemned the idea of such technology as draconian in nature and possibly offensive to the sensibilities of consumers. Also unclear is what other measures might be put in place to ensure consumers aren't able to circumvent such technology.

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User comments : 16

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88HUX88
5 / 5 (12) Nov 07, 2012
The more you tighten your grip Lord Vader, the more star systems will fall through your grasp.
Royale
3.9 / 5 (7) Nov 07, 2012
This is one of Microsoft's shittier ideas.. course it would be a great way for them to sell MUCH more hardware if they could get it required..
SuicideSamurai
5 / 5 (3) Nov 07, 2012
Total cash grab: totally in line with how microsoft works.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2012
Something smells wrong about this story.

I notice that Microsoft hasn't commented on it yet, so how much of the above is speculation? This could be a knee-jerk reaction. The Kinect already identifies individual users on the xbox and they don't limit content on a per-user basis there.

I think the idea is more likely to be used in a far less intrusive manner.

Imagine a family sharing a subscription to a streaming music service. Then imagine the playlists automatically detecting who is in the room. The player could see you walk in and serve up your favorite song without being asked.

Of course, this opens up tailored marketing as well. For example, don't show femenine hygene advertisements when only men and children are watching. You could even try to do reactive advertising. If you watch the response of the people in the room, you can measure effectiveness of the advertisement. If people get up and walk away, then you know they didn't watch the ad, for example.
DavidW
2 / 5 (4) Nov 07, 2012
We are life. We are important. We can't change the past. We are equal.

We all have unknown vulnerabilities that can be exposed by privacy breaches.

We all can be exploited by privacy breaches.

Any decision that attempts to strip privacy from people for reasons other than protecting life is denying the truth that we are important.

Decisions that attempt to define us as unimportant, whether by a government, a company, or an individual are not based on the factual truth.

Sure, Microsoft does some decent things with educating and donating. These areas have value because they are an attempt to enrich life and hold life important, which is truthful.

Ignoring the importance of life reflects a mentality and position that believes in fairytales. propagates lies as having value, and is disrespectful.
Shabs42
1 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2012
First off, this is just a patent. They came up with an idea, so they patented it to protect it for the future. Most of these patents never see the light of day.

Second, this could be a positive. This could convince movie studios to allow people to stream movies currently in theaters to their home. You can be charged based off how many people are watching and it's a win/win for everyone.

Third, if all the worst case stuff happens, turn it off. If the Kinect is baked into the next Xbox, put a piece of tape over the sensor. If they have safeguards against that, people will still find a way to hack it and get around it. Maybe it can be fooled by putting a picture of yourself about a foot away from it so it always thinks there's just one person in the room.

This could also be an opt-in security feature for using credit cards online. If your computer has a webcam you could set your credit card so that your Kinect or computer has to recognize your face before allowing any purchases.
Shabs42
5 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2012
We are life. We are important. We can't change the past. We are equal.

We all have unknown vulnerabilities that can be exposed by privacy breaches.

We all can be exploited by privacy breaches.

Any decision that attempts to strip privacy from people for reasons other than protecting life is denying the truth that we are important.

Decisions that attempt to define us as unimportant, whether by a government, a company, or an individual are not based on the factual truth.

Sure, Microsoft does some decent things with educating and donating. These areas have value because they are an attempt to enrich life and hold life important, which is truthful.

Ignoring the importance of life reflects a mentality and position that believes in fairytales. propagates lies as having value, and is disrespectful.


Honest question. What the hell are you talking about?
Shabs42
5 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2012
Of course, this opens up tailored marketing as well. For example, don't show femenine hygene advertisements when only men and children are watching. You could even try to do reactive advertising. If you watch the response of the people in the room, you can measure effectiveness of the advertisement. If people get up and walk away, then you know they didn't watch the ad, for example.


Ah, I don't like this part. I don't mind tailored advertising; if you're going to advertise to me, it might as well be something I potentially care about. This could be the answer networks are looking for to DVRs and online streaming though. Your webcam or Kinect has to recognize that you have actually viewed an ad before continuing with your video. That would be ridiculously annoying, especially if you just got up to go to the kitchen or whatever and could hear the commercials anyways.
GSwift7
1.5 / 5 (4) Nov 07, 2012
people will still find a way to hack it and get around it


Exactly. Like I said, the above story doesn't seem to pass the smell test.

I really think the intended purpose is more benign. Here's another idea that people have floated involving something like a kinect: Online clothing sales companies spend about 50% of their revenue on shipping, and about half of that is returns because of things that are the wrong size. Something like a Kinect could almost completely eliminate that. There are even experimental programs that allow people to virtually try things on after you let it scan your body. Some of them even check the cut of the clothing to warn of parts of the outfit that might be too tight or too long/short for a particular person.

The potential for cool things you can do when your system is able to identify the user is huge.

You could also virtually eliminate identity theft and account hacking. That would be cool. Imagine not needing a password for anything???
GSwift7
2 / 5 (4) Nov 07, 2012
Your webcam or Kinect has to recognize that you have actually viewed an ad before continuing with your video. That would be ridiculously annoying


Yeah, that would be too annoying for most people. HOWEVER! it might be a way to offer free services to the mass market, while still allowing people to opt into a paid premium level service to avoid the annoyance?

I assume that what we will see is some kind of one-stop log-in based on your 3-d physical identification that acts as a front-end to access a bundle of different services seamlessly. That's the direction microsoft wants to go. They want to be the center of the familyroom media center. To appeal to mass market, you want to make it easy and seamless. So, rather than limit content to specific users, I think it's more likely to allow anyone to log in, and offer access to all of that person's subscriptions, libraries, cloud storage, social media, etc. with one user interface. Windows 8 moved in that direction already.
StarGazer2011
1 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2012
It would be useful for collecting ratings information; MS should team up with Nielson.
TheBoss
not rated yet Nov 07, 2012
This is the dumbest idea i have ever heard of. If its come to this and me having to have this device installed. I would rather go with out internet. Other then that this could be used for great things as people have said.
baudrunner
not rated yet Nov 10, 2012
Microsoft hasn't publicly commented on the patent application but many in the media have already condemned the idea of such technology as draconian in nature and possibly offensive to the sensibilities of consumers
This is just more of what already exists to track people's browsing habits and the like. In the long run, it will be counterproductive, because it will inevitably steer people away from using online social media, so, a cash cow it isn't. Big brother-like intrusion it is. Mind your own business, for crying out loud.

Obviously, the feature that lets you clean up your cookies and temporary internet files on closing your browser will do nothing to prevent this form of personally directed corporate spying, and is just an illusion.
powerup1
not rated yet Nov 23, 2012
We must fight this kind of stuff. It is ultimate invasion of privacy. They must be insane to even try to bring this to market.
powerup1
not rated yet Nov 23, 2012
Why would anyone allow them to monitor you in your home. This beyond crazy. The last time I saw something like this it was in a movie about a "Big Brother" type control system.
powerup1
not rated yet Nov 23, 2012
I will stick with netflix or redbox. There is no content I need enough to use this kind of system.

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