Microsoft applies for patent on technology to count users watching streamed content

By Bob Yirk

Microsoft Corporation has applied for a patent on new technology that would use a Kinect-like device to count and even perhaps identify people as they watch streamed content. Its purpose would be to allow content providers to restrict the number of people viewing content, or the number of times certain individuals could watch a particular video stream. Such technology they note, could also allow for collecting payment for watching content based on the number of people watching, or prevent minors from viewing adult material.

In patent application 20120278904, dated November 1, 2012, inventors; Kathryn Stone Perez, Alex Kipman and Andrew Fuller, assignees of Microsoft Corporation, applied for a patent on new technology that would be used in conjunction with a televised output device to allow for counting and/or identifying people that are present at the viewing of paid-for streamed content. In the application, the new technology is called “Content distribution regulation by viewing user.” With the patent application, Microsoft is looking to work with content providers such as those that make movies and television shows to help in deterring piracy and to serve as a middle-man between consumers and content producers. In its patent application, Microsoft envisions a scenario whereby consumers would be required to have a Kinect-like device attached to their viewing system in order to purchase content. The system could then be used to monitor the people that are in the room watching the content as it is streamed. Doing so would allow content providers to charge by the person, or to limit the number allowed to view what is being offered. Also, by identifying consumers, the system could also prevent those that have already seen the content from watching it more than the number of times that have been paid for and of course access could be restricted based on ratings and the estimated ages of those in attendance. Microsoft hasn’t publicly commented on the patent application but many in the media have already condemned the idea of such technology as draconian in nature and possibly offensive to the sensibilities of consumers. Also unclear is what other measures might be put in place to ensure consumers aren’t able to circumvent such technology.