Patently Absurd

Microsoft Wants to Build a Creepy ‘Consumer Detector’ That Charges for Content Based on How Many People Are in a Room

Xbox plays Big Brother.
 Microsoft Wants to Build a Creepy ‘Consumer Detector’ That Charges for Content Based on How Many People Are in a Room

I’m watching you… (Photo: Game Informer)

The Kinect add-on for Microsoft’s Xbox, which allows users to play fully-immersive games as the Kinect tracks your movements and translates them to the screen, is a fun alternative to typical couch potato gaming. But did you know it can also help corporations spy on you? America!

Back in 2011, Microsoft applied for a patent that would allow cameras and sensors, much like the ones embedded in the Kinect, to track how many people are in a room. Developed by Microsoft’s “incubation team,” which is where they test new approaches to hardware, the patent was recently made public. They’re calling the invention a “consumer detector” and it’s just as frightening as it sounds.

Once it has identified how many people are there–and even who is there–the device will charge for content accordingly. If you pay for one content license but then more viewers join the room, it could halt playback and request that you pay for a different license. That means if you plan to have a movie marathon sleepover, Microsoft would like to charge you extra copyright money for the pleasure of snuggling and watching horror movies.

Like the annoying goodie goodie kid in elementary school, the patent would turn the Kinect into a tattling machine. According to Geekwire, it could even identify the ages of people in a room and refuse to serve up mature content to those under 18.

Of course, tracking could easily be avoided by unplugging your Kinect, turning it away from you, or whispering “snitches gets stitches.”

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