Microsoft wants the Xbox 360 to be the one-stop tech shop for all your entertainment needs: gaming, TV, movies, music and DVDs. But wait, there's more! Microsoft is trying to patent a Kinect 3D body scanner to estimate age and function as an Xbox viewing police AKA an automated parent control.
A Microsoft Xbox web-based, pay-TV deal may be officially announced this week. Programming is expected to include movies, sports, TV shows and music. Bloomberg reported that Microsoft is working with Comcast and Verizon for a pay-TV service over Xbox LIVE. Microsoft is also expecting to sign deals with Time Warner, HBO, Sony Picture's Crackle streaming service, NBC Universal's Bravo and Syfy channels, and Lovefilm UK.
By using a Kinect attachment, users will no longer need to fiddle with game controllers to navigate content. CEO Steve Ballmer previously said "Certainly we all know the frustrations of using guides and menus and controllers, and we think a better way to do all of this is simply to bring Bing and voice to Xbox. You say it, Xbox finds it." Then a Microsoft employee demonstrated by saying, "Xbox, Bing 'The Office'" and all available 'The Office' seasons popped up for on-demand viewing. By the way, yesterday the Microsoft Board awarded Ballmer a 2% pay raise, $682,500 for the fiscal year of 2011; so much for reimaging Microsoft without him.
Worried about children accessing TV, movies or games of a more mature nature? If you don't have body scanning privacy issues, Microsoft has that covered and could automate parental controls by using a Kinect for body scans that estimate age. While a pending Microsoft patent submitted in March 2010 doesn't directly mention Kinect, it does call for a 3D camera which the Kinect uses as a sensor for Xbox 360. According to the Microsoft patent, there are plans to use the 3D camera to scan a user's body and digitally measure arm length, shoulder width, torso length and overall height to estimate the user's age. A system based upon body dimensions and combined with movie, game and TV ratings could act as a parental control and automatically restrict access.
If someone is watching mature content and a child walks into the room, the proposed technology could detect the kid and change to a more appropriate channel. It can also keep a digital eye on when the youngster leaves the room. The patent specifies, "Subsequently, the person is tracked exiting the field of view of the motion capture system, and presenting of the restricted audio and/or video content is resumed at a particular point at which it was paused when the substitute audio and/or video content was presented." This type of automatic parental control is meant to give parents an edge over their tech-savvy children who can otherwise outwit most other parental controls.
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It might be interesting to see if those same tech-whiz kids will try the "Say & See" approach and use Bing search via voice commands to get around the parental controls. Such as Xbox, Bing "hack Kinect body scan parental controls."
A 3-D image has the advantage of providing depth data so that absolute distances such as height and length measurements can be obtained. Moreover, the use of metrics relating to body proportions can be more reliable than other approaches such as those which analyze facial features such as skin texture or the relative location of the eyes, nose and mouth, because such features often cannot be determined with accuracy and consistency and are not as strongly correlated with age. Such approaches typically do not use a body model which is based on a skeletal model and a 3-D depth map, in which the entire body or a large portion of the body is modeled to determine the relative size of body parts.
The patent proposes several security policy age groups that could be defined to correspond with body measurements, yet many parental control default variations will be possible. For example, based on 3D scans and measuring bodily proportions, age groups might be defined like "a child of 0-6 years, a child of 7-12 years, a teenager of 13-17 years and an adult of 18 or more years." This could be setup to correspond with MPAA ratings of: G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 for movies, or TV ratings of TV-Y, TV-Y7, TV-Y7-FV, TV-G, TV-PG TV-14 and TV-MA, and video game ratings like EC, E, E10+, T, M and AO. Even TV listings can be grayed out so kids won't be able to view descriptions of mature content.
What if a user has funky bodily proportions, such as short childlike arms? GeekWire reported "Don't worry, there would be an override for someone with an administrator password, and no doubt there would be an option to disable the technology from the outset."
This story, "Kinect May Act As Xbox 360 Viewing Police with Parental Control Body Scanner" was originally published by Network World.