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Sensor To Monitor TV Watchers Demoed At Cable Labs 302

Posted by kdawson
from the audience-has-reached-critical-mass dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Cable operators at the semi-annual CableLab's Innovation Showcase have informally voted as best new product a gizmo that can determine how many people are watching a TV. Developed by Israeli company PrimeSense, the product lets digital devices see a 3-D view of the world (the images look like something from thermal imaging). In other words, that cable set-top box will know whether three people are sitting on the sofa watching TV and how many are adults vs. children. Do we really need cable and/or video service operators knowing this? It all happens via a chip that resides in a camera that plugs into the set-top box."
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Sensor To Monitor TV Watchers Demoed At Cable Labs

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  • Limits? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @06:49PM (#29031179) Journal

    I can see some obvious uses here that I hope never happen, like, "Sorry, but you only purchased one ticket to your pay-per-view movie, and three people are watching! Purchase additional tickets or ask some of the viewers to leave."

    Of course, even if it gets that bad, I suspect it'd be defeated with something like duct tape. So, while it's kind of evil that someone might want to do this, I'm not all that worried that it would actually work.

    • Re:Limits? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by clang_jangle (975789) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @06:57PM (#29031305) Journal
      Any limits set initially may well change. This is just another reason to resort to bittorrent.
      • Oblig: (Score:5, Funny)

        by Cryacin (657549) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:46PM (#29031819)
        In Comcast America, TV watches you!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ksatyr (1118789)

          Comcast quite possibly will be watching you, but more likely for ratings gathering than for ensuring an audience of no more than x or at least y. I expect this box will be part of a voluntary program for monitoring household TV viewing habits. This would be similar to the existing Neilson electronic ratings system, only automatic, i.e. instead of requiring you to log into the system whenever you start watching TV and log out when you leave, it just detects how many are present.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Possibly will watch? We were watching you back in 2004-2006 when I was there. I was pulling data from set top boxes that showed what channel you were on and the time stamps when you changed. Heck even the Pause FFW and REW date and time stamps are available in the box.

            I could aggregate the data and tell you if I cross referenced to the Schedules could tell you the probability of a child or adult were watching. If I further was able to access the billing records and the demographics collected on the custo

    • duct tape (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @06:57PM (#29031313) Homepage Journal

      Of course, even if it gets that bad, I suspect it'd be defeated with something like duct tape. .

      And then the box detects its 'blind' and refuses to run your movie, or worse, calls the MPAA for a violation of terms, and perhaps some 'circumvention prevention law' they will have bought by then, bringing down the black van onto your home..

      • Re:duct tape (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RetroGeek (206522) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:04PM (#29031373) Homepage

        And then the box detects its 'blind' and refuses to run your movie

        At which point I return the box/tv set, yell at the salesperson, and behave badly.

        This is like the Panasonic patent which blocks channel changing during commercials. Some *AA exec is wetting his pants, but the public WILL NOT put up with this.

        This kind of intrusion is a revolution just waiting to happen, sheeple or not.

        • Some *AA exec is wetting his pants, but the public WILL NOT put up with this.

          This kind of intrusion is a revolution just waiting to happen, sheeple or not.

          I wish i had the confidence in the American public that you do. Im afraid most will just accept it and bend over.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Come on, you're messing with their opiates! If anything will cause them to riot it would be something like that.

          • by michaelhood (667393) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @08:50PM (#29032367)

            Some *AA exec is wetting his pants, but the public WILL NOT put up with this.

            This kind of intrusion is a revolution just waiting to happen, sheeple or not.

            I wish i had the confidence in the American public that you do. Im afraid most will just accept it and bend over.

            Yeah, what keeps me up at night is wondering whether Americans will take up figurative arms over TV commercials.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Easily solved, thanks to the 5th element:

        The cash man! Don't fuck with me or I'll blow you to tomorrow! [cyberpunkreview.com]

        Take a picture of your living room with x number of people in it, and mount it in front of the camera

        Problem solved!

        • I remember that not working very well for that guy. Also, bruce willis would be the MPAA in that case, which is a bit of a stretch.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by PitaBred (632671)
          It's most likely an infrared camera. It detects body heat. You think they wouldn't catch on?
      • by Darinbob (1142669)
        That's where the mirrors pointing to the mannequin come in.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        That law exists now...

        But I was using duct tape as a very simple example. It could also be defeated by, for example, detaching the scanner and pointing it at a single lava lamp in a corner of the room with no one there. Thus, it sees one "person"...

        You get the idea. It would be broken. The more important point is that we shouldn't have to put up with this shit.

    • Of course, even if it gets that bad, I suspect it'd be defeated with something like duct tape.

      "Sorry, but we have detected a problem with your set-top box. Please contact your local service center for repairs to your equipment and reactivation of your account."

    • by Shikaku (1129753)

      Of course, even if it gets that bad, I suspect it'd be defeated with something like duct tape.

      I'd just put a nice photograph of 1 person watching TV instead.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I saw that episode of the A-Team, too!

        I'd use a looping video of one person watching TV on a 7" LCD just in front of the camera. You've got to have movement.

        Even better, use a jailbroken GPS with miopocket.

    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      I can see some obvious uses here that I hope never happen, like, "Sorry, but you only purchased one ticket to your pay-per-view movie, and three people are watching! Purchase additional tickets or ask some of the viewers to leave."

      I heard tell this was Disney's objection to the non-rewindable rental video tape case: it didn't account for multiple people present during the single viewing.

      Of course, even if it gets that bad, I suspect it'd be defeated with something like duct tape.

      More like you'll have to construct a diorama of the room in front of the sensor with the requisite number of people present and whatever qualities it requires simulated (body heat, reflective eyes that blink, occasional motion).

      "Boy, that sure is a bad movie, won't you?"

    • Re:Limits? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:34PM (#29031707)

      I suspect that would get defeated with the whole "I'll just watch it on netflix/DVD/bittorrent/whatever alternative there will be at the time." Maybe not for privacy's sake, but for "I'm not paying extra for when Jimmy comes over, fuck that."

      I suspect the actual uses of the device would be for advertisers to get some feedback and makeup of their viewing audience. The blurb linked to suggests it can tell between kids and adults. That doesn't sound like a tech to limit the number of viewers, that sounds like a tech to see "okay, how many kids versus how many adults are watching right now? More kids? Awesome, McDonalds pays more to run happy meal ads than value meal ads."

    • Point it at a tea light!

  • Nothing that can't be fixed with a piece of electrical tape. Or an ice-pick.

  • by BlueKitties (1541613) <bluekitties616@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @06:50PM (#29031189)
    Oh, the inner exhibitionist in me is tingling.
    • by Aggrav8d (683620) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:46PM (#29031823) Homepage
      *Inner* Exhibitionist?
    • by skuzzlebutt (177224) <jdb AT jeremydbrooks DOT com> on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:05PM (#29032725) Homepage

      To paraphrase Tycho Brahe, "Having a webcam is the first step toward getting caught masturbating."

    • by michael_cain (66650) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @11:21PM (#29033167) Journal
      Some years ago, I developed a small box for the research organization in one of the cable companies that monitored the IR remote control to track button presses and did screen grabs of the STB output in order to allow in-home monitoring of customers' use of the various UI features (needed both because the STB in question was notorious for missing button presses). One version of the little box added a camera pointing out at the viewers and grabbed those images at the same time. The original intent was to allow researchers to check who was in the room when strange button sequences were encountered in the data; while testing the box in a researcher's home, the odd sequences turned out to occur when the three-year-old got her hands on the remote control. The human factors types loved having the snapshots available; again during in-house testing, the image sequences jogged peoples' memories: "Yeah, Bobby was there and that was when this odd thing happened..."

      The version that took pictures of viewers never got used in customers' homes. The legal department was seriously concerned about how to write an agreement regarding the use of those images. I certainly have to wonder whether Comcast's legal department has looked at what needs to be added to the terms of service, and what the privacy requirements will be. If I believe my spouse has been cheating on me, can I get access to what was observed while I was out of town?

      The members of the research group and I did have some odd conversations about whether the viewer snapshots should be disabled based on which channel was being watched...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you're:

    • Jacking off to porn.
    • Do'in someone on the couch.
    • Getting a blowjob
    • Eating
    • Who you are eating
    • Drinking
    • Watching with the guys
    • Masturbating to a flick
    • Which actors get you hot.
    • An on and on...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by d474 (695126)
      Dear Sir,

      Your hobbies interest me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. Please don't tell my mother.

      Signed,
      NoSocialOutlets
  • Somewhere, Orwell is slowly shaking his head...
  • by Tired and Emotional (750842) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @06:52PM (#29031223)
    I bet it can't tell the difference between someone watching the TV and someone sleeping in front of the TV.

    I bet it can't tell the difference between me, sitting at the kitchen table watching the Football and my wife sitting at the breakfast table with her back turned.

    I bet it can't tell that I am reading, not watching.

    How does it distinguish a large dog from a small child?

    If it uses infra red it can at least distinguish a human from a cardboard cut-out of the Duke of Edinburgh! I have seen award ceremonies have trouble with that one, so I guess that makes it smarter than some humans.

    • by Chyeld (713439)

      Bet you it uses Microsoft Natel tech [penny-arcade.com].

    • by jfortman (891800) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:38PM (#29031747) Homepage

      On the contrary. I bet it does.

      One of my graduate professors at the University of Missouri is doing some work with elder care with technology like this. Getting real 3-D information from multiple cameras takes a lot of processing time, but they can segment the space in a room down to 1 inch cubes. The result is a 3-D silhouette of the objects and people moving in the room. They can tell the difference between people moving throughout the room. A small child is different from a dog in that the dog has 4 legs, for example.

      They can identify whether a person is laying on the couch or has fallen. They can extract information such as the bend of the spine and whether a person favors one leg or the other. A silhouette of a cardboard cutout would appear flat to the camera.

      What I described above is PHD research using some fairly complex computer vision, 3-D segmentation and pattern recognition algorithms. 3-D scene reconstruction cannot be done with a single camera. The math doesn't work. I would not expect a set-top box with a single webcam to be that good. I would, however, expect them to do motion segmentation on frames of video. Background subtraction would let them ignore the furniture in the room and identify regions of motion. From there, pattern recognition algorithms could be used to find faces and identify the relative shape of a body based on a template. Given that, you could identify whether a person was tall or short and the relative proportions of their bodies. You probably couldn't identify male or female, though. That would be a tough call. You probably could identify a dog versus a child with relative ease.

      Luckily, the amount of bandwidth needed to send these images back to the cable company would be pretty massive (given everyone who watches cable in a small to medium sized city) so you shouldn't worry about that. You probably only need to worry about packets being sent back over the cable line identifying the date, time, number of adults, number of children, channel and number of seconds since the last channel change.

    • by dltaylor (7510)

      Here's a cheap one: http://www.chinoindia.com/dl/spec/pdf_thermoimaging/TP-L_PSE-702.pdf [chinoindia.com].

      Looks pretty clear to me, 'specially the pictures on page 4.

  • Does the device send this information to anyone? The article says no such thing, so the whole "Do we really need cable and/or video service operators knowing this?" line in the summary appears to be FUD. Does anyone have a source with more relevant information about this product?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      When the consideration is corporation vs. consumer, or government vs. citizen, FUD comes true nearly one hundred percent of the time.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Thiez (1281866)

        I'm sure you'll get modded +5 for that, but it's simply not true. There are many, many countries where you can say you disagree with the government or some corporation in public without mysteriously disappearing the next day. Webcams have existed for a long time now and I know of no country where it is required by law to have one turned on 24/7 sending images to 'Our Glorious Leader, May He Live Forever'. You and I and the rest of /. may disagree with many things that happen in this world (mostly concerning

    • Re:Phone home (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PolyDwarf (156355) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @06:56PM (#29031295)

      What would be the point if it *didn't* send the info to anyone?

      • Re:Phone home (Score:5, Insightful)

        by xigxag (167441) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:08PM (#29031435)

        The manufacturer's homepage seems to imply that the device could be used for gesture-controlled applications, such as changing the channel without a remote control.

        In other words, something like Natal.

        Or to rephrase that, what does this device do that Natal doesn't have the capability to do? And that being the case, shouldn't people be equally worried about Natal spying on its users?

        • Natal can be turned off and moved. Throw one of these in your cable box, and it's on and looking for every moment the box is powered up.
  • So don't plug it in. Toss the damned thing in the trash.

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @06:56PM (#29031291) Homepage Journal

    . . . Runners who are trying to evade their Death Panel appointments. You can tell which ones are sick and due for termination by their elevated IR output.

  • Nielson boxes? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gudeldar (705128) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @06:56PM (#29031293)
    Perhaps these are going to go in next generation Nielsen boxes so that Nielsen can give a more accurate count of viewers instead of just assuming 1 box = 1 viewer.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by badboy_tw2002 (524611)

      What, are you kidding! That's way too sensible! As the other posters have surmised its an evil plot such that the cable operator can watch everything you do from their Skull Island fortress of doom!!!!!

      • Re:Nielson boxes? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:04PM (#29031381)

        What, are you kidding! That's way too sensible! As the other posters have surmised its an evil plot such that the cable operator can watch everything you do from their Skull Island fortress of doom!!!!!

        No, the other posters have surmised that if something can be abused by those in a position of power, it will be so abused, sooner or later.

        Whether it is first used for a "sensible" purpose or no, sooner or later it will be used for a malicious purpose.

        • by Eskarel (565631)

          I'm kind of sick of this attitude.

          Certainly human corruption is a universal issue, and certainly without proper vigilance said corruption will, in all likelihood occur in anything that can be abused.

          However, the idea is not to be vigilant for anything that might possibly be abused and prevent it(we'd basically have to all stay locked in our houses and not move in order to achieve this, but to be vigilant for abuse and to fight it when/if it occurs.

          Everything on earth can be abused, that doesn't meant that w

          • However, the idea is not to be vigilant for anything that might possibly be abused and prevent it(we'd basically have to all stay locked in our houses and not move in order to achieve this, but to be vigilant for abuse and to fight it when/if it occurs.

            The first step in being vigilant for abuse is recognize that something can be abused, and how it can be abused. Once that is done, we can consider ways to punish the abuse.

            Assuming that things will always be used in benign ways by default merely allows the

    • Re:Nielson boxes? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by yuna49 (905461) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:07PM (#29031423)

      Ratings companies like Nielsen have been using "people meters" for years now. However the current technology relies on household members pressing a button to register their presence in the room. Nielsen experimented with infrared sensors over twenty years ago. Trust me, this is hardly new technology.

      Of course, becoming a member of one of the Nielsen meter panels depends on your agreeing to participate. A system where one is automatically monitored by a set-top box with or without prior agreement raises enormous privacy issues. I'd assume if this takes off it'll just be another one of the 175 clauses contained in your "agreement" with the cable operator.

  • plethysmograph [wikipedia.org]? How will the know what porn we like?
  • Can it ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SlashDev (627697) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:02PM (#29031353) Homepage
    .. tell if I get a hard-on watching Jessica Biel?
  • The TV Networks will finally recognize your inflatable doll for the companion she really is!

    • The TV Networks will finally recognize your inflatable doll for the companion she really is!

      Whats her body temperature?

      • by EdIII (1114411) *

        Silllly. That's obvious. It depends on friction.

      • by xigxag (167441)

        Unless I missed it, the article just said that the image the sensor makes looks something like thermal imaging. It didn't say it actually IS thermal imaging. In fact manufacturer's page said a "light source" is required. I wonder if the glow from the TV set at 9 feet away will be sufficient?

  • by blakedev (1397081) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:05PM (#29031391)
    A midget is getting annoyed that the TV won't let him watch Real Sex 10.
    • From the blog "... cable set-top box will know whether three people are sitting on the sofa watching TV and how many are adults vs. children..."

      I doubt it will distinguish a midget from a child, but the blog (I assume foolishly) assumes so... or maybe it was the article (I didn't RTFA, i'm slashdot fo life mofo)

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:05PM (#29031397) Journal
    Need I say more? Not their damned business, would NEVER give permission for such a thing in my home.
    • Then you don't get the service.
      • by c0d3g33k (102699)
        Yep. And won't miss it a bit. "Service" is the totality of the terms of exchange, not just "give me stuff for money". If the terms of the exchange are not mutually agreeable, there is no exchange. Did you have some sort of point to make?
        • The point I am making is that media providers may soon require such technology to be active in order for you to have access to their content.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by RileyBryan (1475681)
      AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!! NO NO NO!!! 1984198419841984 I would fight it but they would just haul me off to the ministry of truth and lobotomize me. Besides, they will just wait till the argument gets old and continue with their plans for our evil, stinking, orwellian hellhole futures.
    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @08:12PM (#29032039)

      funny, just today I cancelled my direct-tv sub.

      it was 'on hold' (their way of trying to keep you as a sub) for 6mos. a postcard came today saying it would auto-renew (how nice of them) if I didn't call to make other plans. like cancel.

      I was on the phone for a hour with their 'retentions' dept.

      in short, I told them: drm killed the deal. I've had my tivo content locked up whenever a motherboard in the tivo breaks. the hard drives are locked (unless you hack around it, if you even can). the phone rep tried to convince me to use the analog hole. lol! on an HD dvr, no less. yeah, sure, I'll PAY for HD service and then copy the data out of the 75ohm composite rca jack in SD format, letterboxed, fit into a 4:3 frame and poorly transcoded. yeah, right.

      so it was kind of funny that this topic came up. one of the things I told the phone rep guy was that I was not happy about even having my keypresses logged (anon or not, I don't care). when I press 'play' I don't need a data record sent home telling you that.

      so I cancelled. took an hour of my time on the phone (I did want to give that guy as much of an earful as he was trying to give me!) - but I'm now done with broadcast tv. its netflix for me, for now on. no remote 'loggers' when I spin a silver disc!

      broadcast tv is dying. I give it 10 yrs more, tops, before IP broadband takes completely over.

  • "How would you like us to shave a dollar off your monthly cable bill?"
    • by PRMan (959735)

      "How would you like us to shave a dollar off your monthly cable bill?"

      Well, now that you put it that way...

  • that each owner has the ability to OPT-IN. The real issue is when they say that they will do regardless, then it will be time to switch away, OR bury the box elsewhere and simply use my remote control remoter.
    • by Renraku (518261)

      Much like people can opt-in to the non-smoking program on their insurance, that gives you a small discount or something.

      Anyone that didn't opt-in, a year later, gets to pay extra because the fees went up to recoup their losses from the discount.

      So, in essence, they opted out of a discount, instead of being forced to pay extra. This is already happening with 'black boxes' for cars.

  • The Fix (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:17PM (#29031521) Journal

    "It all happens via a chip that resides in a camera that plugs into the set-top box."

    It all stops happening via a Craftsman five pound ball peen camera removal tool that resides in a box that sits on top the work bench.

    This reeks of leftover dot com fever outrageous idea development looking for thrown-cash funding regardless of viability. Though crippled beyond recuperation that mind set refuses to die along with some of its other goofy projects, such as the Nukem Dukem 3D of extraneous peripherals, the eternally vaporous Smell-O-Vision-like "products". If it weren't for the fact that the marketoids attending the conference are undoubtedly drooling over their imagined implications for advertising revenue, it would have all the impact and lifespan of all the items taken from patents and idea articles and sputtered across the What's New pages of Popular Science.

    But then I could be wrong. Cable operators could "require" these and tie the incoming signal to its continued operation. In which case it would behoove the prudent to invest heavily into manufacturers of big rubber asses with clamps designed to attach to the front of cable set-top boxes.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:19PM (#29031553) Homepage

    A few weeks ago I unplugged my cable box as an experiment. You know, just to get an idea of what that would actually do to my life.

    I did notice a difference. The difference was that I spent more of my time doing things that were actually rewarding, like reading the book I'd wanted to get to, learning to play a few pieces of music I'd been wanting to work on, and writing down my thoughts on life the universe and everything. In short, it's a lot better for me, for my eyes, for my health, and my sleep schedule.

    So with the use of cable boxes to spy on me, it's time for me to get on the phone, get through arguing with the poor call center rep, and get rid of the problem for good.

    • My roommate and I decided to try a no TV policy in our dorm room at the start of my second year of college.

      That was 7 years ago, and I never went back to watching TV.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      So with the use of cable boxes to spy on me, it's time for me to get on the phone, get through arguing with the poor call center rep, and get rid of the problem for good.

      I actually did cancel my direct-tv subscription today. truly, I did. I was coming off a 6month 'off period' (that's their first way of trying to get you to not cancel). I got the card in the mail saying that they were going to auto-subscribe me again. bloody nerve of them!

      spent a good hour on the phone with 'retentions'. told them my v

  • Nietzsche (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Experiment 626 (698257) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:19PM (#29031555)

    Friedrich Nietzsche once said that if you stare into the abyss long enough the abyss stares back at you. Now staring at the TV can have the same effect.

  • cable need better guide software not this crap i-Guide is a joke and why does it look so bad on a hd tv. Direct tv guide and menus are 4:3 but they still look good in HD vs cable.

    And whats up with ad's on each page of the comcast on screen guide?

  • >It all happens via a chip that resides in a camera that plugs into the set-top box.

    That's where I habitually set my large mug of very hot coffee.

  • The best part (Score:3, Insightful)

    by js3 (319268) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:26PM (#29031633)

    & the best part is you get to pay for the boxes lol

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:37PM (#29031741) Homepage

    And you should too. Stone cold seriously. Because if the cableco don't know what you're watching, then you have no Goddamn influence over them.

    That great new SF show that just rocked your socks off? If you're not in a Neilsen household, then they don't even know that you watched it, and buying the DVD box set 2 years later won't save it. The fat welfare whore next door with the Neilson box and the seven kids who watch re-runs of America's Fattiest Fatty 24/7? They're the people driving the content provision.

  • I predict (Score:4, Interesting)

    by taustin (171655) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:39PM (#29031767) Homepage Journal

    that if you could get the internal memos on this, it would turn out that the idea is to be able to charge a per-viewer fee. In the same way that ASCAP is threatening lawsuits if you don't have a public performance license for the ringtone on your cell phone.

  • by j741 (788258) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:43PM (#29031795) Journal

    While this certainly has the potential to let TV programmers know that we do actually loose interest when a commercial is aired, and some programs that seem to get canceled are actually watched, there are far too many potential abuses for this technology. I don't want to suddenly become part of a reality tv show that is aired in some other country, and that I have no idea I am a part of.

  • by Bodhammer (559311) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:45PM (#29031811)
    'Smith!' screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. '6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You're not trying. Lower, please! That's better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me.'
    A sudden hot sweat had broken out all over Winston's body. His face remained completely inscrutable. Never show dismay! Never show resentment! A single flicker of the eyes could give you away. He stood watching while the instructress raised her arms above her head and -- one could not say gracefully, but with remarkable neatness and efficiency -- bent over and tucked the first joint of her fingers under her toes.
    'There, comrades! That's how I want to see you doing it. Watch me again. I'm thirty-nine and I've had four children. Now look.' She bent over again. 'You see my knees aren't bent. You can all do it if you want to,' she added as she straightened herself up. 'Anyone under forty-five is perfectly capable of touching his toes. We don't all have the privilege of fighting in the front line, but at least we can all keep fit. Remember our boys on the Malabar front! And the sailors in the Floating Fortresses! Just think what they have to put up with. Now try again. That's better, comrade, that's much better,' she added encouragingly as Winston, with a violent lunge, succeeded in touching his toes with knees unbent, for the first time in several years.
    -George Orwell 1984
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:52PM (#29031881) Homepage

    IIRC I read this in one of Lawrence Lessig's books.

    Movie studio executives, of course, hated the idea of home video. Their business model was tied to getting paid for each showing, payment per showing, and also per viewer; the rents charged to movie theatres were set on a sliding scale based on the seating capacity of the house).

    RCA thought they had a breakthrough, when they showed Disney executives a cassette they had developed. It was designed for rental and could only be played once. A mechanical locking arrangement was engaged when the cassette had finished playing. The consumer would then have to return it to the rental store, which had the special tool needed to unlock and rewind it.

    They demonstrated it proudly to Disney execs who said, dismissively, "This is no good to us. We have absolutely no way of knowing how many people are in the room."

  • by Chess Piece Face (247847) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:53PM (#29031899)

    Kent Brockman: "Of course, there's no way to see into the Simpson home without some kind of infrared heat-sensitive camera. So, let's turn it on."

  • Simple, just obstruct the camera eye with one of those reusable ice packs. That'll fix 'em
  • They're all sitting down watching like zombies at a Hypnotoad exhibition. What's to monitor?

  • I found that I watched no live TV. Everything was timeshifted. My DVR has an IR dongle to control the STB (STB, STD?, whatever), so the STB is hidden behind some cabinetry, with a cardboard shield to prevent accidental channel switching.

    If they outlaw (TOS, whatever) that, then the service gets canceled.

  • .....For McCain!!!

    Seriously though, who will buy this? This is honestly the best news for OTA fans that I can imagine. No one, tech enthusiast or not, is going to be OK with cable companies monitoring them. All this will do is push more and more individuals to Netflix, Hulu, HTPC. Cable companies are on the way out. Dumb-Pipe, here we come.
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @09:50AM (#29037455) Homepage Journal

    Unfortunately, this sort of thing - "Proles! Welcome Big Brother into your home! Allow our cameras/microphones/tracking devices into your lives! We will give you shiny things!" - is becoming ever more common.

    Where I am (Central KS) the radio stations are running an ad, trying to drum up "volunteers" to for "an exciting study of a potential new way to fund the highway system". Guess what: they want people to voluntarily submit to putting a GPS logger on their car, to track where they drive, for the purpose of "usage-based taxation". The very idea of which "makes me ill and angry" to quote The Outer Limits! But the idea that people, rather than rising up with metaphorical pitchforks and torches, are VOLUNTEERING to have this ... Folks, we are on the downhill slide - get used to it.

    Or rather, DON'T get used to it! Fight it at every step!

  • by smchris (464899) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @10:52PM (#29047063)

    "So, your family watches presidential addresses but never watches FOX News. What are you, socialists?"

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