Microsoft Patents Orwellian Tech For Kinect

    November 7, 2012

The Kinect has been a huge success for Microsoft since it was introduced in 2010. The games might not be the best, but Microsoft may have other plans in store for the camera.

A recent patent filed by Microsoft would allow the Kinect camera to detect how many people are in the room at a time. As of now, the actual camera can only support two simultaneous players, but it can still register the number of people present. It doesn’t sound that bad until you read the patent’s description:

The technology, briefly described, is a content presentation system and method allowing content providers to regulate the presentation of content on a per-user-view basis. Content is distributed to consuming devices, such as televisions, set-top boxes and digital displays, with an associated license option on the number of individual consumers or viewers allowed to consume the content. The limitation may comprise a 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, all tied to the number of actual content consumers allowed to view the content. Consumers are presented with a content selection and a choice of licenses allowing consumption of the content. In one embodiment, a license manager on the consuming device or on a content providers system manages license usage and content consumption. The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken.

In short, Microsoft wants to turn the Kinect into DRM. The technology would allow rights holders to implement software into its media that could restrict viewings based on the number of people present. For example, let’s say that Star Wars Episode VII, when it comes out, has a maximum viewer allotment of five people. If the Kinect or other camera detects that more than five people are present, the movie would not play until you payed an extra fee to allow more viewers.

It’s funny – we complain about big media companies not evolving with technology. That’s not necessarily true. We expect these companies to evolve with technology in a way that’s consumer friendly and makes it easier for us, the consumers, to access content. In reality, big media companies are using technology to make it harder for consumers to enjoy content while simultaneously bleeding more money out of well-intentioned consumers.

It’s important to note that this is just a patent for now. Microsoft has not made any mention of implementing the software, and the current Kinect hardware isn’t exactly powerful enough to handle it. The Xbox 720 is apparently getting an upgraded Kinect, however, so you never know if Microsoft will turn its next home console into Big Brother’s technology of choice.

[h/t: Kotaku]