Microsoft patent could restrict content with Kinect

A Microsoft patent describes a system to let content providers regulate distribution by factors like number of users simultaneously, age, or identity, using an attached camera -- most likely Kinect.


Kinect can be a bit unsettling, always watching you with its cold, robotic eyes. Most of us have gotten used to it, because that feeling goes away when you learn the convenience of the phrase "Xbox, next episode." But it's still always there. Watching you. Judging you. And if a newly-uncovered patent gets implemented on the device, it could restrict content when it notices someone else has joined the party.

The April 2011 patent (via OXM) describes "Content Distribution Regulation by Viewing User." This could limit the "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."

If you break any of the terms, you'd be prompted for "remedial action." If you don't take it, the content shuts off. The patent doesn't mention the Kinect explicitly, but the references to game consoles and cameras seem like clear indication.

In other words, a content provider could regulate their goods to be doled out on a per-user basis. They could, for example, price tiers of movie rentals based on how many viewers it will have. The downside is that if you rent Avengers for three, and your boneheaded fourth roommate takes a spot on the couch, the movie could end mid-Hulk-Smash.

As usual, a patent is no proof that it will ever be implemented, and if it is Microsoft may be holding off for its next Xbox console with a rumored-to-be upgraded Kinect device.

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