We’ve been hearing a lot about the lack of privacy these days and this one is very big (très grand, muy grande). You may remember the concerns that people have raised over Smart TVs being ripe for exploitation that would permit hackers to watch you watch TV, or one of the less nefarious concerns that allowed the Smart TV to recognize when you left the room by dimming the screen to concern energy. Not a problem?

Now Microsoft has a new patent application (still an application not yet granted), which describes how the Xbox One console has the ability to monitor your body, eyes, and heartbeat to determine if you’re actually watching advertising then reward you for it with Xbox achievements.

The patent is called “Awards and achievements across TV ecosystem” and describes camera sensors monitoring the eye movements and heartbeats of TV viewers. The console will know if you’re in the room when an ad break is on. It will also be able to know if you’re actually watching the ad or if you’re doing something else. Don’t bother to try gaming the system by turning off the lights, the Xbox will be able to monitor you, even in the dark.

What they’re saying is people need to be bribed to sit still and watch a commercial. The patent application gives the explanation, “With the proliferation of digital video recording devices, advertisers are finding it increasingly difficult to introduce their advertisements to viewers.” I say, try creating better ads. There are a few good ones out there.

The general idea behind this Pavlovian approach could be the fact that a rewards system might seem a natural progression for gamers—the concept of advancing the plot to unlock the new weapon that gives one the ability to shoot the bad guy in the cojones could  be defined as a reward.

Microsoft is not alone.  Intel is now bringing this technology into people’s living rooms. The company has developed a camera-equipped set-top box that tracks viewers of its anticipated Web TV service.  Like the Microsoft concept, the box monitors direction of gaze, so it can tell if you’re paying attention to the ads or not.

And, Jell-O recently used this technology to create a vending machine that detects people’s ages to dispense  free snacks exclusively to adults. If a child approaches the vending machine an alarm sounds and the machine asked the child to step away.

This is all considered intelligent marketing. However, if you’re not experiencing the gee-whiz (or WTF) factor yet, you might want to consider it, because it is all likely advance to the next level.

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5 Comments on Hello Xbox users: Have you heard the latest about Microsoft’s great patent application?

  1. Tony D. says:

    Yes. I can see how this may grow into a big problem. I don’t like the idea of this type of invasion even if the current position appears somewhat benign. As you said, it has the potential to grow into a monster.

  2. Butterfly Jones says:

    This is all quite scary. Even although we decide it’s okay for now, it will become increasingly worse. Many people have smart TVs and don’t know how to use them anyway. That said, we love our XBox and the use of rewards certainly does tie into the reward of moving to the next level.

  3. Susan S. says:

    Very scary. Certainly Pavlovian. We’re all getting dumber or the opinion of the folks who think these things up think we are.

  4. Tin Lizzie says:

    I wonder what will come next. It reminds me of the “Ata Boy” rewards in the corporate environment. Pavlovian indeed–we work for the bonus points to move to the next level.

  5. Jennanne says:

    Scary. Very scary. We do live in a free country, right?

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