This is terrifying. Last year, Microsoft patented a method of using its Kinect gaming system to spy on users in their home, but the patent has only now become available to view. The goal of the patent is to ensure that people who rented a movie through Microsoft don’t offer a “public viewing” in their home with too many people. The implications, as you can imagine, are bone chilling.
A Microsoft patent application published this week suggests that the software giant could use its Xbox 360 Kinect hardware as a “Big Brother” sensor to prevent too many people from watching rented movies.
The patent application, applied for on November 1, is titled “Content distribution regulation by viewing user.” The patent, assigned to Kathryn Stone Perez, Alex Aben-Athar Kipman and Andrew John Fuller, describes a “content presentation system and method allowing content providers to regulate the presentation of content on a per-user-view basis”.
Although the patent goes on at some length, the concept is fairly simple: the patent assumes a future in which a content provider (Microsoft or a third-party studio) licenses content like a movie or game to be played. The difference that the patent suggests is that the content would be licensed on a per-user-view basis, so that, for example, a maximum of four people could watch a movie.
The patent goes on to suggest that the computing device itself enforce limits on the number of people that could view the movie or game. If the number of viewers exceeds the limit, the viewers could be asked to re-license the movie - paying more for the privilege, one can assume - or risk it being blocked or shut down.
Although the computing device in question could be any number of things, including a camera-equipped mobile phone, one of the drawings attached to the patent includes a television screen with a pair of cameras mounted upon it. Although neither the patent nor the drawings name it specifically, the suggestion is that the Xbox Kinect sensor could be used to identify users and determine if their presence, including moving in an out of the room, would be enough to warrant a license warning.
I know which gaming system I won’t be buying for Christmas this year.