You may want to unplug your Kinect from your Xbox 360 console, lock it in a box and bury it amidst the graves of the old Indian burial ground under cover of darkness and a lightning storm after reading this post: the Microsoft motion sensor may be poised to become one seriously scary bit of kit.
A patent filed by Microsoft last year, but only revealed to the public this week, plans to turn the Kinect instrument into a way for large companies to monitor your living room and the way you consume media.
Specifically, the patent details a way that the camera unit could be used to enforce licensing agreements for movie rentals that, instead of being sold on a pay-per-view basis for a license that lasts a number of days, would scan your living room for the number of people watching the screen, and charge a fee based on the size of the audience:
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.
Though the Kinect isn't explicitly mentioned, it's the best fit in Microsoft's current hardware arsenal to perform such tasks.
As Kotaku commenter The Squid humorously points out, " I don't think this is the plan, but it's a great way to get people to stop using Kinect."
Sounds like a horrible idea, we're sure you will agree. It'd take all the spontaneity out of popping on a movie, especially if you have to ask your collected friends to empty their pockets in order to be able to sit and watch with you. And imagine the new social faux-pas of bringing a pal unannounced to a movie night? You'll have to charge on the door!
Then of course there is the issue of an invasion of privacy. You'd want to think twice about cuddling up with your other half in front of a rom-com if you thought someone was monitoring your actions somewhere.
No sign yet of when or even if Microsoft will capitalise on this patent plan. Here's hoping the rumoured Xox 720 doesn't have a built-in Kinect sensor, which would make de-activating such monitoring techniques far more difficult.