MS patent uses Kinect to price videos based on number of viewers

By on November 5, 2012, 3:30 PM

A new Microsoft patent could prove to be an expensive annoyance for folks who enjoy watching videos with large groups. Titled "Content Distribution Regulation by Viewing User," the  April 2011 filing was issued last week and describes the use of a device such as the Xbox 360's Kinect camera to monitor the number of people watching a specific piece of content. Naturally, from there, it'd adjust content prices accordingly.

For instance, you might pay twice as much for eight people to watch a movie versus four. Additionally, the system could be smart enough to halt the playback of content and charge for more viewers as they enter the room. Viewer licenses could also be bound to identities, so only the purchaser would be able to access specific content -- at least without acquiring a different license, which, again, would mean spending more.

Other viewership parameters could be factored in as well, such as age. This might tie in with a patent Microsoft received last September called "Parental Control Settings Based on Body Dimensions," which outlines the use of a camera to determine someone's age based on their body's dimensions, such as the ratio of arm length to body height, the ratio of head and shoulder width, the relative size of their head and so on.

Considering the propensity for customer backlash over these sorts of things, we wouldn't expect the "consumer detector" to roll out any time soon -- if ever -- and even if it did, folks would likely find simple workarounds. But it highlights the entertainment industry's less-than-graceful transition from physical to digital distribution, leveraging technology to impose greater restrictions instead of focusing on broader access.

User Comments: 18

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1 person liked this | gcarter gcarter said:

I can just imagine it... your watching the latest blockbuster, you get to the climax of the movie, and your misses walks in, to ask if you want a beer - all of a sudden the friggin movie pauses and the price instantly doubles!

4 people like this | ikesmasher said:

Yea if this happens im never buying another xbox related product.

that, or ill place a dummy in the room with me, and when MS charges me more, ill sue.

1 person liked this | Littleczr Littleczr said:

Couldn't you just disconnect the device? I mean really? Talk about greed to the max times a trillion.

BlueDrake said:

Well it's requiring you to have the Kinect to begin with. I'd just simply never use it during movie watching, if they expect that of me I'd just withdraw my interest. Then find other means to watch movies. No point in being charged more based on what they can see, when we can find alternatives to Microsoft's hardware.

Win7Dev said:

Couldn't you just disconnect the device? I mean really? Talk about greed to the max times a trillion.

Probably not disconnect, but couldn't you put a picture of yourself in front of it or just cover up the camera?

m4a4 m4a4 said:

I have seen many MS patents that have annoying functions reported on before and can safely say that none of them has come to light (phew!). So I don't expect this one to either.

And I am hoping (at the least) prices will be lower for the single individual, normal for 2 people, and not too bad for more people. Still annoying but I'm sure easy to fool...

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Well that settles it. I'll never have one of these in my living room.

Mikymjr Mikymjr said:

Wait they can spy on us! NOOOOOO =p. But it does seem true to some extent

MrAnderson said:

This whole article feels like a big troll. lol

Throw a towel over the Kinect... or better yet, don't buy content that uses corperate spyware.

MS might not even be thinking of using it now... could be trying to keep others from making them have to implement it.

Just do not support the content providers regarding milking more money out of home entertainment in this way.

Also, remeber the statement about the TV will be watching us in the future. So it begins. I only see this being reasonable for consumers for sending personal content DRM... like a girlfriend DRM'ing a personal video to her boyfriend who is fighting in a war etc. This is where this tech could shine.

ReederOnTheRun ReederOnTheRun said:

Don't rock the boat Microsoft, ur already floating around in a hurricane.

Guest said:

Ok guys, slow down that hate train just a smidge.

Just because MS filed the patent doesn't mean they'll be doing anything with it. It only means that they consider the concept to be valuable and if anyone ever uses the technology then MS will get their dollar. All large corporations engage in this practice -- sometimes it is very lucrative and sometimes it comes to nothing, but they aren't going to risk the possibility of losing out.

Ideas like this are obviously unpopular and very likely easy to defeat if implemented. I doubt that your next Netflix bill will be based on this patent.

Cota Cota said:

Couldn't you just disconnect the device? I mean really? Talk about greed to the max times a trillion.

Or cover the camera... my pink underwear will finally have a use!

Ravey Ravey said:

I can actually see a positive to this. If this system was brought in Only for the latest blockbuster movies so you can stay at home instead of going to the Cinema. Then it would be quite a useful system. The price would have to be cheaper than than going to the cinema though. Home entertainment is becoming more viable now that TV is getting larger and Ultra High Def is just around the corner. More people will be willing to say at home for the right price.

treetops treetops said:

This patent is for the future when we have devices always viewing us. Say we hold up a one on our fingers to turn the light off. Not to crazy sounding, this patent will be viable likely within the next 20 years.

Guest said:

PLEASE CONNECT YOUR DEVICE TO VERIFY COMPLIANCE displayed in large, friendly letters...

And it will be deployed earlier than later, so the circumvent-overcome cycle starts asap.

Guest said:

Your working to hard. just use an animated mask for any regular webcam, to fool the kenect camera.

Guest said:

A flat image isn't going to work. The kinect uses a 3D scan of the area to identify people. I'm thinking you could sit a dummy in the corner and set the kinect in front of him. Let the kids have some private time.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

It seems the. whole thing would be illegal without an electronic surveillance warrant.

Redbox never tried to install cameras on my DVD player, and that's where I'll get my movies, so long as we both shall live.

This premise is unimaginally offensive to me. Didn't anybody ever ever read Orwell's "1984"?

It should be required reading for everybody with an internet connection. That is if they haven't "burned" all the E-books of it.

But you know what, if you're too insulated, oblivious, arrogant, and lazy enough to think that the web should supplant physical media, this is exactly what you deserve.

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