Microsoft patents tech that watches viewers

Cameras used to count number of people watching on the couch; failure to acquire license stops playback.

A patent application by Microsoft for "Content Distribution Regulation by Viewing User" has surfaced. The filing, which was made with the US Patent and Trademark Office on April 26, 2011, and was spotted by Eurogamer, outlines a system designed to monitor viewers as they watch; ensuring compliance with licensing for music, games, and film.

The technology works by using cameras (no explicit mention is made of the Kinect or a Kinect successor) found in home and mobile devices to take still or moving images of the consumers and their environment. The system then compares the number of viewers visible in the frame with the licensing terms attached to the product; prompting watchers to purchase additional licenses (as required) for each person watching.

Excerpts from the application are listed below, while the full version can be read on the USPTO website. Warning: contains legalise.

"Consumers are presented with a content selection and a choice of licenses allowing consumption of the 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."

"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 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 covers home and mobile digital content, both streamed and downloaded to a device, as well as various types of physical storage. Failure to acquire the additional licenses required for multiple viewers when prompted will result in the content stream or playback stopping.

"…a license validation is performed by comparing the user count and any view or performance limitation against that allowed by the license. If the license is satisfied, the content presentation begins. If not, then the user is presented with an option to adjust the license terms. If the license is updated, then the content presentation begins. If not, the presentation is halted."

The patent filing also makes numerous mentions of at least one type of head-mounted display. These match those found in the purportedly leaked (now taken down) Xbox 720 documents from June this year, which showed concept drawings of players wearing armbands and glasses while playing.

Images from a reportedly leaked Xbox document from earlier this year.

"Head mounted display device 502, which in one embodiment is in the shape of glasses, is worn on the head of a user so that the user can see through a display, and thereby have an actual direct view of the space in front of the user. The use of the term 'actual and direct view' refers to the ability to see the real world objects directly with the human eye, rather than seeing created image representations of the objects. For example, looking through glass at a room allows a user to have an actual direct view of the room, while viewing a video of a room on a television is not an actual direct view of the room."

"In one embodiment, processing unit 504 is worn on the user's wrist and includes much of the computing power used to operate [the] head mounted display device…"

"A head mounted display device 502, may include microphone and/or camera 5110 for recording sounds and transmitting that audio data to [a] processing unit."

As a technology patent, the document doesn't disclose any specific devices or services, but may provide a glimpse into the direction of Microsoft's next generation console, as well as how users may be required to engage with games and entertainment.

GameSpot contacted Microsoft, but the publisher was unable to provide comment at time of publication.

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Discussion

0 comments
Setzera
Setzera

I love how the comments from November are saying it could never happen, flash forward to today, and the comments are far different.. now that this has become a reality.

ACLOVERLORD
ACLOVERLORD

And you people believe it... lol did you see when this article was published?

Microsoft patents tech that watches viewers November 6, 2012 9:29PM PST

jrabbit99
jrabbit99

Sounds like big brother. No Microsoft. Just no.

TheBulldog87
TheBulldog87

ah technology. the future of no privacy and nickel-and-dime products. alright dramatic cynicism aside, let's wait and see what happens with this.

 

poseidion
poseidion

I'm definitely not buying any product with that type of capability. That means allowing them to spy me.

JJMikhail
JJMikhail

Something like this will never be possible, if Zune has wained in support how the hell do they expect something like this to work.  Remember the whole build up to Kinect and it wasn't quite what people expected after watching the Milo project?

 

However, there are human beings, don't know any personally myself, who take pleasure in being watched so they will probably give this a go as an option but it's doomed to fail.

Dominicobaggio
Dominicobaggio

I dont believe this could happen. People are not that stupid!   Its like charging someone a subscription to play online when they already pay for an internet connection and calling it gold connection. No one is that dumb...

saleama
saleama

I don't understand? Does this mean that only the individual wearing the glasses would be able to "see" the content on the monitor? That would make it difficult to monitor kids playing games. And because I am in the room with my kids or friends while they are watching, playing etc.., does not mean I am activly participating in there entertainment. It just means I am in the room. Fail.

bALTHar86
bALTHar86

I can't see this happening. Just because its patented doesn't mean it will be made and MS is smart enough to see the flaws.

They just want to beat anyone else to the tech and charge massive money from anybody who wants to copy it.

Andrex1212
Andrex1212

Well say goodbye to a massive consumer of games, movies and music if they implement this. I rarely ever post and complain about a direction a company takes towards digital content, but this is in the league of SCARY.

 

To force a family of four who has two kids and want to watch a nice family movie, they need to purchase four licenses of that same movie in order to watch it? Goodbye next Xbox. I'll stick with my Wii U and PS4.

legolas506
legolas506

Microsoft just wants a good view of my naked body on the couch while I fap...

RaijinPlague
RaijinPlague

Here's an idea: Don't buy it. What's that thing called again? Oh yea - CHOICE!

 

I'm sure Microsoft is thinking the exact same thing about invasion of privacy and lawsuits, but once you accept their EULA...you're done. 

 

So as far as I'm concerned, you have 3 choices:

1. Buy it

2. Don't buy it

3. Go make your own and sell it.

mischiefmeerkat
mischiefmeerkat

Microsoft wants people to pay just to watch their friends play the game....

 

That. is. psychotically greedy...and just downright scary where society is going. 24 hour monitoring coming soon...

 

well i guess i'm truly done with video games then. sad...wish i could go back to the early/mid 90's

johnlyw
johnlyw

What if I don't want to get the camera? Are you going to make me? Well... then it is off to PS4, I guess.

KRHamilton
KRHamilton

This would be the death of Xbox and Microsoft as a gaming company.  I can see the class action lawsuits in the millions.  Full invasion of privacy.

 

Enforcer246
Enforcer246

If this goes through, then I'm just going to sit in front of the couch with my pants off and masturbate every time I watch a movie. Give them something to watch.

Enforcer246
Enforcer246

lol. Why does America only focus on copyright issues instead of actual (worse) problems that they have, like childhood obesity.

skittzo_s
skittzo_s

Does this make them subject to possession off child pornography? when to say if some underage was getting changed etc. in front off a tv or so? (I guess you can vision a scenario considering this scenario isn't exaggerated)

Crush_Project
Crush_Project

do you see what i mean when i say 'where is our freedom from big business?'

 

and if they have the extra money to spend on this, then why cant they make any decent games or a reasonably priced product to save their lives?  sickofthissickofthissickofthissickofthissickofthissickofthissickofthissickofthissickofthissickoftthis

PetJel
PetJel

So I hear you will have to pay extra if you want to share your snickers with a friend now.

swyg
swyg

Yeah, not gonna happen.

Apastron
Apastron

Well this doesn't sound sinister at all...

mariokart64fan
mariokart64fan

"i always feel like somebodys watching me --- and i have no privacy " hahah 

mariokart64fan
mariokart64fan

OH BOY THEGOVERNMENT IS WATCHING YOU NOW!  next step is installing security cameras in the local bathrooms of stores bars stripclubs and school so any time you use the bathroom it counts how much toilet paper you use  lol

awwitz
awwitz

Wow. Say goodbye to your privacy, folks. Microsoft's even planning on "monitoring" your every move as you try to enjoy a little bit of R and R in your personal space or when you're with your friends and/or families. Creepy word, eh, "monitoring". It's like Microsoft's slowly becoming this reality's Skynet. Or that A.I. chick from I, Robot. Or that freaky wheel-type thing from Wall-E. Like having a robotic spy in your living room. Ugh.

KurganIsTheOne
KurganIsTheOne

From watching that video I also got some virtual boy vibes.

RichardHighwind
RichardHighwind

Man, there are just so many cameras everywhere, do we really want more?

RichardHighwind
RichardHighwind

I just don't see this working anywhere, and it shouldn't. Seeing how consoles are usually available in many countiries, but content is restricted in South America for example, I believe the system won't work completely in such countries. And if it did, copyright is not as intensely controlled everywhere as in the US, and the hacking of this system would probably be used as a norm in some places (I might be exagerating a bit). I'm not making an argument in favor of piracy, but if it can in any way diminish the incentives for such a thing to come out, I'll be damn, but I'll give it my thanks. I don't know, if something like this is launched, it might not reach far from the well regulate countries (where copyright infringement is really prosecuted).

Hurvl
Hurvl

I can't believe this! They're going to these kinds of lengths to ensure that there are no "freeloaders", that MS gets their rightful due and is not conned out of any revenue. Say goodbye to having a friend come and play with you or playing on your account, that won't be possible with big brother Microsoft watching over you. Since they own the Xbox hardware I guess they can do what they want with it and enforce a mandatory upgrade so that no one can play any games without. It's bad enough with companies monitoring your internet traffic and whatnot, but this is really dystopian, Orwellian 1984 sh*t.

Henninger
Henninger

Well if any of this is true then i'll pass on this system. No1 is gonna tell me i can't have friends or family over to watch a movie with me. Please boycott this.

swimbearuk
swimbearuk

I can't see this being useful or workable. Not everybody has their room set up with their machine unobscured or their sofa directly opposite the TV, which is partly why I (and possibly many others) have avoided tech like Kinect. It sounds like they've just rushed to patent the idea, but that doesn't mean it will actually happen. I wouldn't like to see this in a console, and it would probably put me off buying it if it was implemented as a spying device or a means of controlling licenses.

blackothh
blackothh

fuck off microsoft

 

on a side note, i dont own any of your crapboxes.

 

sounds like a mirror pointing at a blowup doll will solve the issue

 

ill stick with buying my movies, ktxbai

airboygt
airboygt

First off; the English chick in the video is way cute!

Ahem, now that I've gotten that off my chest; to the matter at hand.

MicroSHAFT can take their invasive licensing B.S. software and hardware and effectively cram it up in any number of small orifices found on the human body.

I for one, will not own or patronize any product that the publisher is using to verify (SPY) on me while I watch or play said program.

Are media outlets/providers/publishers of the mindset that your average everyday consumer is turning his/her living space into a movie-theater or such? Good lord what's next? Charging you for exceeding the amount of humans consuming oxygen in a given living space?

xpepox
xpepox

I guess I will have to start wearing pants when I watch movies now.

xtraflossy
xtraflossy

Baby,.. can you please facebook in the kitchen for a few hours I'm trying to watch a movie.  

BlackSquare
BlackSquare

I just wonder how long before the gov't starts to demand the usage of this or uses it themselves. Maybe not but its possible some form of user per video thing. Especially if they try to get around movie theaters.

vannacut
vannacut

 @Enforcer246 i would surely do that if it were them watching us, but this would be just an attemtp to seduce a machine....

saleama
saleama

@Enforcer246 Um...because fuck you, that's why!

maxwell97
maxwell97

@Crush_Project If you want to be free of business, free yourself of their products. It's not that hard.

mauler89
mauler89

 @swyg I wouldn't be so sure of that.  I am a law student currently taking an Intellectual Property survey course that covers copyright.  Copyright law has gone completely and totally bonkers, and this patent could quite easily go through.  Even if it doesn't, though, that only means that Microsoft won't have a monopoly on this technology, meaning barring legislation against it, it will be fair game for anyone to implement it.

kuohung
kuohung

 @RichardHighwind  "and the hacking of this system would probably be used as a norm in some places (I might be exagerating a bit)" 

I assure you, you're not exagerating.

 

I'm from south east asia and I remember my PSone can play pirated cds right out of the box. I didn't even know til PS2 came out that mod chips were installed before they hit the stores.

We had zero market for original games back then as a single original games would set you back the equivalent of 60 meals. (not a justification though)

 

Plus people don't really do refunds over there, in case the game you bought is unacceptably crappy   The first time me seeing an authentic video games store was back in 2001.

Rippletonz
Rippletonz

 @BlackSquare Things are inevitably going to move in this direction.  We just have to fight it every single time.  First step for this fight is we need to make sure non-gamers know about this and understand the implications if it's allowed to happen.

Crush_Project
Crush_Project

 @maxwell97  ya sure, just point me to the 'other' commercial operating system.

 

and linux doesnt count. 

saleama
saleama

@Venatorcruiser and I shudder to imagine a Kit-Katt!!!

ottumatic
ottumatic

 @Rippletonz  @BlackSquare Yawn... and what happens next? Amendment to laws to protect consumers privacy? We know that is never going to work so long government's pockets are lined with corporate money.

ottumatic
ottumatic

 @Rippletonz  @BlackSquareSounds like you are on the receiving end of it given that kind of feeble comeback, lol... and for very long time too. You haven't answer the question posed anyway