If you enjoy streaming movies at home through Netflix or Amazon Prime (or whatever other service you use), get ready to start paying more, because there’s a new technology just dropped off at the patent office that promises to keep you from enjoying movies with a few friends.
If you’re wondering why anyone would let this technology into their home, rest assured thousands will. Even you might, unwittingly.
And who’s to blame for this patent? Wait for it after the jump…
Oh what the hell, it’s totally Microsoft…
Microsoft, the computing giant built on perennially terrible operating systems and an eye for exploiting the Sherman Act, unveiled their latest technological marvel, the XBox One, this week. The next-generation console improves on just about everything the eight-year-old (eons in the tech world) XBox 360 offered. It’s even going to offer some kind of integration with live TV and Skype and the Internet and Fantasy Football and all the other bells and whistles. (And yes, I realize that all sounds a bit like this Onion article.)
But it’s also going to include a revamped, always-on Kinect device. The Kinect is the XBox peripheral that can identify the user with facial recognition technology and respond to both voice commands and gestures, creating a controller-less experience so grown-ups can look like they’ve developed chorea to outside observers.
The new version of the Kinect might also provide the gateway for the studios to exact another pound of flesh from the viewing public.
The abstract describes a camera-based system that would monitor the number of viewers in a room and check to see if the number of occupants exceeded a certain threshold set by the content provider. If there are too many warm bodies present, the device owner would be prompted to purchase a license for a greater number of viewers.
It’s important to note that not every patented technology makes it into the final product. But it’s also important to note that even if Microsoft doesn’t include this spy protocol at launch, it could easily add it through a software update down the road.
As more and more content moves from physical objects (like DVDs) to the ephemeral (streaming), the studios see more opportunities to exert control over their intellectual property. Armed with a technology that gives studios the option of charging viewers as individuals, Microsoft would become their favorite streaming content provider. Warner Bros., MGM, and Universal have already pulled over 2,000 films from Netflix because they think there’s a better (read: more lucrative) method of delivering streaming content. If Microsoft offers this technology, it could win the content war and lock all of us into “Microflix” or whatever rip-off name it chooses for its service.
It’s possible that Microsoft will choose the merciful path and sit on this patent, never exposing the world to its evil. But it’s Microsoft, so, no.