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Microsoft Patents Television Your Rights Online

Will Microsoft Dis-Kinect Freeloading TV Viewers? 478

theodp writes "Just when you think the cable TV viewing experience couldn't get any worse, GeekWire reports on the Microsoft Xbox Incubation team's patent-pending Consumer Detector, which uses cameras and sensors like those in the Xbox 360 Kinect controller to monitor, count and in some cases identify the people in a room watching television, movies and other content. Should the number of viewers detected exceed the limits of a particular content license, the system would halt playback unless additional viewing rights were purchased."
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Will Microsoft Dis-Kinect Freeloading TV Viewers?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @09:57AM (#41879739)

    The best way to keep this technology out of your homes is to refuse to purchase it.

  • Re:Masking tape (Score:5, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @10:08AM (#41879849) Journal

    Can it identify a photograph and a real person ?

      If not, it's easily hackable...

    The 'kinect' sensor package includes pretty robust(for the price) depth detection. There are also a fair number of demo applications with adequate-if-not-exactly-perfect facial expression tracking.

    It would probably add some false negatives; but the hardware capabilities are there to reject all 2D fakes, as well as weeding out 3D fakes that are inhumanly static...

  • Re:Masking tape (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @10:14AM (#41879889)

    Huxley, not Orwell. No one is forced to own/watch television.

  • Patent != intention (Score:5, Informative)

    by tambo ( 310170 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @10:24AM (#41879987)
    This article makes a mistake that I've seen a hundred times before on Slashdot: confusing "the patent says...", and "the patentee intends to..."

    I write software patents for a living. (I didn't write this one.) Let me describe how the patent drafting process goes.

    A client comes to me with a simple invention - we'd like to do (A), (B), and (C) to achieve result (X). I talk to them at length about what (ABC) is, and what critically sets (ABC) apart from every similar example. I ask questions about how each of (A), (B), and (C) could be varied; what other elements (D), (E), and/or (F) could be added; and whether (ABC) could also be used for results (Y) or (Z).

    And when I write up the patent application, EVERYTHING goes in there. (ABC) is described as the base invention, but all of the other material about (D), (E), (F), (X), (Y), and (Z) is also included as optional extensions or uses of (ABC).

    Now, here's the critical thing: I haven't fully considered whether (D) is a desirable feature, or whether (Y) is a desirable result. My client doesn't even know, or says, "we don't really intend to implement (D) or do (X)." None of that is relevant. All that matters is: They are all logical, valid extensions of (ABC), so, typically, they all go in. Anything that could make the basic technique more valuable, appear more useful, or might more fully distinguish (ABC) over known techniques is helpful to add to the specification.

    I read this patent the same way. The basic invention is: "Use a camera to count and identify people interacting with a device." Now, you can't just stop there - you haven't said what that information might be used for, and the patent office typically rejects applications that look like, "The technique is: Generate some data." So the patent discloses several uses of that information. That doesn't mean that Microsoft has any interest in using that technique - only that it's logically achievable from the basic techniques.

    Look, we all agree that technology is neutral, right? For example, DRM has been *used* for lots of obnoxious purposes (including limiting fair-use rights), but the basic technology of DRM is neither good nor bad - it just is. The same principle applies here.

  • The Answer is No. (Score:5, Informative)

    by akpoff ( 683177 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @10:39AM (#41880131) Homepage

    It's always no.

    One thing though: This story is a great demonstration of my maxim that any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word "no". The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bollocks, and donâ(TM)t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it.

    In other words, Betteridge's law of headlines [] describes trolling by the writer or publisher rather than a commenter.

  • Re:Masking tape (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @11:00AM (#41880381)


    In Germany, the latest reform made at least sure that everyone has to pay for TV, including those not having one (with the argument that this is much easier that way, and about everyone has a TV anyway).

  • Re:Masking tape (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @11:03AM (#41880441) Homepage Journal

    "Telescreens are most prominently featured in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, ... They are television and security camera-like devices used by the ruling Party in Oceania to keep its subjects under constant surveillance, thus eliminating the chance of secret conspiracies against Oceania. All members of the Inner Party (upper-class) and Outer Party (middle-class) have telescreens, but the proles (lower-class) are not typically monitored as they are unimportant to the Party.

    In Smith's conversation with the shop keeper Charrington, it is mentioned that "[telescreens] are too expensive" and proles can't afford them (presumably, for Party Members purchasing them is obligatory, though this is not explicitly stated)." []

  • Re:Masking tape (Score:2, Informative)

    by RazorSharp ( 1418697 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @11:04AM (#41880445)

    Nothing really Orwellian about it. If you want to compare it to a dystopian novel I'd suggest Fahrenheit 451. If Microsoft were to actually utilize such a system (which I don't think they could - consumer uproar would kill it and could potentially hurt the XBox brand as collateral damage) then there is reason enough to criticize it on its own without drawing some parallel to a dystopian novel. The term Orwellian is pretty inaccurate in almost every case it's used except perhaps when talking about China or the NSA.

  • Re:Masking tape (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @11:05AM (#41880475)

    Huxley, not Orwell. No one is forced to own/watch television.

    It's worth pointing out that even in Orwell's 1984, it was only the Party Members who were required to have a telescreen.

  • Re:Masking tape (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @11:11AM (#41880559) Homepage Journal

    Slashdot Fortune:

    "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half."
    -- Jay Gould

    The American dream.

  • Re:Masking tape (Score:3, Informative)

    by geekbastard ( 889412 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @11:39AM (#41880919)

    Huxley, not Orwell. No one is forced to own/watch television.

    If it were Huxley all television would be provided free of charge, including all premium channels, so as to keep the working class happy and ignorant of the real goings on of the world. That is of course until we start receiving our daily ration of soma which will make all current distractions seem quaint by comparison. Given the choice, I would prefer Huxleys ignorant utopia over Orwells distopia any day. Then again I am an escapist in every sense of the word . . .

  • Re:Masking tape (Score:5, Informative)

    by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Monday November 05, 2012 @01:03PM (#41882447) Journal
    Because (and this is very intentional) the BBC is legally obliged to be completely impartial when it comes to politics. If they were funded by a tax then there would be potential leverage for whichever party is in power. By using an independently defined license fee instead means there is (in theory) less chance of undue political influence over one of the biggest media providers in the UK (and beyond).

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky