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Television Technology

The Next Phase of Intelligent TVs Will Observe You 294

Posted by samzenpus
from the unseen-mechanized-eye dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Japan based NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories (STRL) is testing an interface which observes TV viewers, determines their interest and provides information related to the TV program in accordance with the way they are watching it. UTAN (user technology assisted navigation) TV viewing interface, as it is called, has a camera mounted on the TV which photographs the viewer and estimates the viewer's degrees of interest, concentration, etc. The information is processed by a tablet PC and recommended information is shown to the viewer. It is possible to show individual interests as well, in case there are multiple viewers."
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The Next Phase of Intelligent TVs Will Observe You

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  • Nice, however.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Monday May 30, 2011 @01:47PM (#36289328)

    Would be brilliant if there was anything interesting on!

    Seriously.. all TV related technology is kind of meh these days because ultimately you are choosing between 50 different reality TV shows, maybe one or two token sitcoms/dramas and re-runs of real shows you’ve already seen and probably already own the DVD.

    It’s not like music where there is enough variety that you can be taken aback by some band you didn’t even know existed. There is a limited amount of TV programming, and if you had any interest in it, you’ve probably already seen it or are at least aware of it.

    • I think that in the end this technology will be used not to "enhance" viewer experience, but rather for targeted advertising. Nothing is "innovated" these days for the benefit of mankind, but rather for the benefit of the CONSUMER.

      • Re:Nice, however.. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Stormthirst (66538) on Monday May 30, 2011 @01:57PM (#36289454)

        Nothing is "innovated" these days for the benefit of mankind, but rather for the benefit of the marketing departments.

        FTFY

    • Re:Nice, however.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spire3661 (1038968) on Monday May 30, 2011 @02:04PM (#36289552) Journal
      A ton of tech progress is being stifled by the desire to capitalize on digital distribution. Almost EVERY piece of tech is now sold with a built in store. My wife has a Bodybugg. Its a device that measures your daily activity etc. TO be able to USE the device at all, you have to subscribe to their webservice. There is no way to upload the contents to your local machine or use it at all without paying a subscription. They have inserted themselves between the device and the user for no REAL reason other then monetization.

      "From Bodybugg support
      Posted By: bodybugg Support Team
      Posted Date: 6-3-08 1:01PM
      We are sorry if you were misled in any way, but bodybugg does require that you maintain an active subscription to the web application. This is comparable to a cell phone company wherein you pay for the phone as well as the calling plan."

      Its amazing that they compare operating and maintaining a cellular network to collecting and visualizing personal data on a website. Really?

      I mention all this becasue the REASON TV tech is 'meh' is because everyone is jockeying to lock up the digital frontier and ignoring actual technological progress. I would LOVE to have a simple 1 hour TV buffer. No record, no storage, just a 1 hour TV buffer to pause, FF, rewind. It cannot be that hard to make a simple inline buffer like that. But the likelyhood of seeing it in the next decade is slim partly because of patents and partly because there is no ongoing revenue stream from it.
      • by Guignol (159087)
        You are totally spot on !
      • by XFire35 (1519315)
        The Sky+ box offered by Sky can let you pause/rewind/FF live TV for an hour and even over that (I think it's dependent on how much you have stored on the hard-drive however), but the principal is there.
      • You are perfectly free to reverse engineer the protocol and write up your own server to download the Bodybugg data. Or you can google for one of the many projects, such as FreeBugg.
        • Thats all well and good, but misses the point i was making that devices and features that dont have ongoing software revenue streams are being stifled. I was pointing it out as a reality of our time, not calling for their heads.
          • I was pointing it out as a reality of our time...

            It's *not* the reality of our time, it has for the most part always been so.

            The fact it, there are fundimentally different motives in basic science and advancing technology. Most "inventors" have always been about the money. Even with basic science, money has been a motivator long before "our time".

      • by Bios_Hakr (68586)

        Windows Media Center does what you want.

      • But the likelyhood of seeing it in the next decade is slim partly because of patents and partly because there is no ongoing revenue stream from it.

        Yes, it's true, developing new technology is very expensive, and most people / companies don't want to do it unless they can make money on it.

      • Re:Nice, however.. (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 30, 2011 @04:30PM (#36290932)

        When I finally called Comcast and told them to cancel my subscription they were mystified. "Are you switching to dish?" No. "Are you moving?" No. "Then why do you want to cancel?" Because I pay you $140 a month. You charge me for stuff I don't want. Every single broadcast is in HD but unless I pay for for HD you go to the extra trouble to reduce the quality of the signal before delivering it. I pay you for service but I still have to watch you paste pop-up ads over the top of the programming in addition to the ads that are already there. I have over 200 channels and there is NOTHING to watch that isn't a bunch of insipid BS or reruns. If I want to record programming you require me to use your DVR that you charge me for every month, deliver a used one to my house and refuse to fix when it doesn't work. I can stream every single thing I want to see in the same resolution for free. I want to cancel because you provide nothing of value.

        Long silence followed by "we can give you a 6 months discount to keep you as a customer". You really weren't listening were you?

      • Re:Nice, however.. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by stms (1132653) on Monday May 30, 2011 @05:29PM (#36291344)

        I would LOVE to have a simple 1 hour TV buffer. No record, no storage, just a 1 hour TV buffer to pause, FF, rewind. It cannot be that hard to make a simple inline buffer like that. But the likelyhood of seeing it in the next decade is slim partly because of patents and partly because there is no ongoing revenue stream from it.

        What are you talking about I use one of those it's called ThePiratebay.

    • New poll? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Barbara, not Barbie (721478) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday May 30, 2011 @03:23PM (#36290328) Journal

      POLL TIME!

      [_] This is nothing new. I know someone who has claimed for more than a DECADE that their TV is spying on them.
      [_] Like men will ever give up control of the remote!
      [_] "Excuse me, but why is it every time YOU walk into the room the TV ask if we want to switch to pay-per-view porn?"
      [_] I'd rather have a TV that lets me keep an eye on the scum who think that watching me is a good idea.
      [_] That scream you heard was all those "In Soviet Russia TV watches YOU" jokes dying.
      [_] It doesn't matter - he'll still spend the evening clicking from one channel to the next every commercial.
      [_] Just when you thought you couldn't come up with another reason not to watch TV ...
      [_] Duct Tape Lesson # 2,389,042 - Did you know that you can use duct tape to cover the sensors to keep your TV from spying on you?
      [_] You know that they'll soon be charging extra for a TV that doesn't watch you.
      [_] Mess with them - stick a computer monitor with The Sims having awesome double-back-monkey sex for hours at a time in front of the sensor. Bonus points is you screen "Faces of Death" with the monkey-brain-eating scene instead.
      [_] Sue them for "producing and distributing under-age porn" because your under-18 daughter walked in front of the TV while running from the shower to her bedroom.
      [_] mumble mumble remote when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

    • by Ucklak (755284)

      The Television world is much bigger than the US market.

    • This complaint has been going on since the TV was invented. Yet, we all still have our DVRs and our shows that you dare not criticize.

      The problem isn't that there's nothing on, the problem is how you measure it. "I have 500 channels and only watch 6 of them. 6 / 500 = 0.012, that's almost zero!~!!!1"

      I wouldn't mind, but really, both my dad and my grandfather said this sort of thing.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      Would be brilliant if there was anything interesting on!

      That's the whole point. The new interface will allow the system to choose programs "that will interest you" without you having to make any decisions. It will probably sold as providing new freedom for TV viewers, but the only "freedom" it will provide is the "freedom" from having any choices.

      This is the holy grail for advertisers, for content providers: to take away viewers' freedom to choose what they watch. After all, choosing is just so difficul

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Would be brilliant if there was anything interesting on!

      With the TV set able to spy, the selection range may be wider. E.g.

      You - during news: "Fuck X (a politician at you choice)"
      TV: "would you like an pr0n movie featuring X? His TV captured some delicious scenes".

  • 1984 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 30, 2011 @01:49PM (#36289338)

    No thanks.

    • by icebike (68054)

      This is likely to get banned in short order on privacy grounds alone. Even if all processing was done inside the TV (looking for eyeballs),
      the fact that any data gleaned would have to be sent upstream to be useful should be enough to get this technology blocked.

      If not, I predict a bump in sales of black electrical tape as soon as these hit the market.

      • by iluvcapra (782887)

        This is likely to get banned in short order on privacy grounds alone.

        When has that ever happened before, homeslice?

      • by Rary (566291)

        This is likely to get banned in short order on privacy grounds alone. Even if all processing was done inside the TV (looking for eyeballs), the fact that any data gleaned would have to be sent upstream to be useful should be enough to get this technology blocked.

        Why would any data have to be sent upstream? If you read TFA (or even TFS), you'll see that the intention is to provide information to the viewer, not to the service provider. Therefore, there's no need for the data to go anywhere.

        Realistically, if the data gets sent upstream, then no one would ever buy this. If it is only used locally, then there will likely be quite a lot of buyers. Slashdotters tend to be against any and all tracking for any purposes, but if you venture out into the real world, you'll fi

        • Re:1984 (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cforciea (1926392) on Monday May 30, 2011 @02:25PM (#36289796)

          Realistically, if the data gets sent upstream, then no one would ever buy this. If it is only used locally, then there will likely be quite a lot of buyers.

          Realistically, they will use this the same way they do any other tracking: they will tell you about the benefits and just not bother mentioning that they are storing your data "anonymously" someplace when it retrieves information for you. Then people will buy it without even thinking about the privacy connotations.

          Why would any data have to be sent upstream?

          "Have to be" and "will be" are not the same thing.

        • Re:1984 (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday May 30, 2011 @02:39PM (#36289922)

          you'll see that the intention is to provide information to the viewer, not to the service provider.

          Money earned by providing info to the viewer: $0.

          Money earned by providing info to advertisers and media companies: $millions if not billions.

          Yeah yeah, the information is for the "viewer". Just be sure to read the fine print.

          • by Abstrackt (609015)

            Yeah yeah, the information is for the "viewer". Just be sure to read the fine print.

            'The viewer of your data, hereafer refered to as the "viewer"...' Huh, no kidding.

          • "Television [network] companies are not in the business of delivering television programmes to their audience; they're in the business of delivering audiences to their advertisers." -- Douglas Adams

            (From "What Have We Got To Lose?"; first appearance in Wired UK #1, 1995; reprinted in The Salmon of Doubt)

      • Re:1984 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by amiga3D (567632) on Monday May 30, 2011 @02:15PM (#36289698)

        I can see a big market in a totalitarian society for this. You put on programming to extol the virtues and greatness of the ruler/s and watch to see who is interested and who is not. Viewing of propaganda can be made mandatory and this insures that your people will not only view the programming but remain attentive. Potential dissidents would be much easier to spot. Modern technology has many ways to benefit man and also many ways to enslave him.

      • Nono, it will be opt-out, so you can disable it. Of course, disabling it makes you suspicious.

    • Re:1984 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by boarder8925 (714555) <thegreentrilby@nospaM.gmail.com> on Monday May 30, 2011 @02:11PM (#36289646) Homepage
      If I were still in high school, I would agree with you. What I took away from 1984 after the first reading is all the technological nightmarish oppression that Orwell depicted. When I read the book again, though, that changed. I'm not at all saying that Orwell wasn't warning about invasive technology, but the bigger point of the book is the control the state has over the people's hearts and minds. It's not about the surveillance, it's about what the surveillance is meant to achieve. All the totalitarian measures seemed to be more of a stopgap until the language was finally reduced to meaninglessness via Newspeak and people's ability for thought was so hemmed in by the basic language filled with all sorts of shades of meaning. When Orwell writes about the Two Minutes Hate and the anti-sex propaganda, he makes it clear that those are the more dangerous dangers, because instead of people's having better outlets for their energiesâ"namely, sexâ"all their passions and energies were put toward the service of Big Brother and the government above them. The surveillance is to help enforce that, but the ultimate goal is to make it impossible for people to think about anything else, to want to think about anything else. If all that we get from 1984 is that surveillance is bad, we're not reading it right.
      • Dammit, Slashdot, those a's-circumflex are supposed to be em dashes.
      • On the other hand, perhaps the Morlocks and the Eloi from The Time Machine are relevant. Our entertainment systems are essentially a tool for herding us, so that we will continue to be good consumers and buy more from the companies that provide us with the entertainment. We get exactly what we want, which is quick and easy access to entertainment that is tailored to our own personal interests; meanwhile, we continue to provide sustenance for the people providing us with that entertainment, who otherwise r
      • Amen. From the book:

        "...do not forget this, Winston: always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--forever."

        Notice the only technology in that image is a boot!

    • Behind Winston's back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.

  • Yes, you! Bend lower, please!
    • by Animats (122034)

      Yes, you! Bend lower, please!

      There's a Kinect app for that. [youtube.com]

    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      The soldiers on the Malabar Front have it much worse than you.

    • Thanks! I thought I was the only one thinking, "This is 'Enemy of the State' all over again". Glad to know I'm not alone.

      The antidote for this Soviet Russia joke: put sick stuff right in front of the camera, like bestiality or something like that. If it wants to watch me, it should be ready for the consequences. :)

  • it's a cautionary tale, not a manual.
    • it's a cautionary tale, not a manual.

      Yes it is. It seems like we shouldn't stop the semantics there though, I mean this is a novel that was written about and well before a time when there was even a Facebook.

      How important can the lessons in there be to the current and future generations if people could press a "like button" to indicate whether it satisfactorily stimulated there pleasure center.

      • ... if people could press a "like button" to indicate whether it satisfactorily stimulated there pleasure center.

        er... that ought to have read "if people could not press a..."

      • by russotto (537200)

        How important can the lessons in there be to the current and future generations if people could press a "like button" to indicate whether it satisfactorily stimulated there pleasure center.

        That sounds more like the other well-known dystopian novel, _Brave New World_.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      It's a tale cautioning against allowing government to manipulate people without restraint. The constant surveillance was just a side effect of the totalitarian regime. Preventing progress on technology out of fear won't change anything. The paranoid life of 1984 already exists in places like North Korea, where people disappear because a government officer doesn't like the way they look, and such a life arrived without the help of any pervasive surveillance.

      • Re:Hey everybody, (Score:4, Interesting)

        by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday May 30, 2011 @02:17PM (#36289708)
        On the other hand, we seem to be inching closer to a Brave New World dystopia, where we are bred to want certain things, and we constantly get what we want in order to keep us distracted. We are also free to choose exile from the system, if we want, and live on a island where we have all the freedom we want (except the freedom to communicate with our friends).

        We have also been cautioned against creating a world in which we are endlessly distracted by pleasure.
  • by DaMattster (977781) on Monday May 30, 2011 @01:54PM (#36289418)
    Does this mean now that law enforcement could have a potential window into our own homes and that we could lose any rights to privacy. I can see this thing being co-opted for law enforcement and surveillance.
    • No, that will never happen! This is just for entertainment purposes, law enforcement won't have access to it! We promise, really!
      • Also, we'll pass that law giving law enforcement access to it anytime they want, without any paperwork. But that is just an unintented side effect, law enforcement will never make use of that law. We promisse, really!

    • Hard access trumps software access every time, and the example is quite clear in this instance.

      Black tape.

      • Rest assured that this will be a required "feature" for the system to work. You want to see something? Let me see something! You black out my cam, I black out your screen.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      They will never allow that. They care about you. They just want to help you. Now turn on the TV like a good citizen.

  • ...things that will turn me off of TV for the rest of my life. The whole 3D crap is really getting on my nerves, and has pretty much stopped me from spending any money at movies. I don't want to spend an extra 5 bucks to watch the movie in 3d, thanks. Except now, often times, it's either 3d or nothing ( I choose nothing ). Then 3D tvs, which aren't worth the extra costs in my opinion. Now this?

    The end of TV is nigh! And you know what? That's perfectly fine by me.

    • I've felt that the "TV experience"* has got worse ever since high def TVs started being pushed to the masses. The TV manufacturers suddenly realised that people were willing to throw away perfectly good TVs for ones that shows the same stuff but in higher def. Except most of the TV channels don't do high def.

      So now, people are willing to landfill perfectly good HD TVs for the next thing - 3D TVs.

      And what will happen next? People junking 3D TVs in favour of ones which "enhance our viewing^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hmarket

      • by amiga3D (567632)

        I junked my 15 year old CRT television this year and haven't looked back. I did wait until I could get a decent sized one for a decent price. A 47" 240hz LCD unit for $599 on a Black Friday sale. That's actually probably cheaper in dollars adjusted for inflation than I paid for my 32" CRT unit back in 1995 ($400). I love it. I watch a lot of outdoor programming and it's a nice enhancement. I've seen the 3D TV demos and I am greatly underwhelmed. I'd never pay one cent more for that and so far almost

      • by Abstrackt (609015)

        Don't knock it, I've been getting fantastic deals on used flat screens thanks to those people.

        (My old TV developed this shrill whine that drove everyone insane so it needed to be replaced anyway)

  • by chazchaz101 (871891) on Monday May 30, 2011 @01:59PM (#36289482)

    I see you've covered the camera with electrical tape. Would you be interested in these other privacy related products?

    • The production version will simply switch the program to a 24 hour Rick Astley marathon and turns your volume to maximum when it detects interference with the Viewer Monitoring Interface, for troubleshooting.
    • by PRMan (959735)
      Mod parent up. That is a true LOL.
  • There is but a tiny step in between using this for pushing advertisements, and using this for control of population. actually, if you passively use the information about interests for control, there isnt even a step at all in between them.
    • How much more control it gives besides what it currently gives?

      • by unity100 (970058)
        imagine that they track how you respond to any news piece containing 'undesirable' elements in it. and then they tag you as a 'dissenter' depending on that.
      • Well, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was an exercise program hosted by Ed Allan. He would occasionally interject encouragements like "Lift your knees higher, Marcia", or "Keep going, Linda". With this new feature, he'd be able to actually see who needed to lift their knees higher, and which viewers had actually just flopped back onto the couch. Nothing like a "Come on, Elizabeth at 127 Sycamore Avenue, in Des Moines. Lift those pink legwarmers!" to motivate a person.
  • Japan based NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories (STRL) is testing an interface which observes
    TV viewers, determines their interest and provides information related to the TV program in accordance with the way they are watching it.

    ...

    Though still in the development stage this could actually revolutionize how we watch TV and especially the advertisements.

    It basically sounds like additional hardware (with enough resolution and processing power to discern
    multiple faces and possible reactions) on top of a TV, just to spam us with more distracting ads.

    The only way I see this being even remotely commercially feasible (especially in an anti-big-brother society like America) is:
    1. Either the advertisers shelling out for the extra cost for this hardware and paying an additional fee for this privilege
    2. Making the additional benefits of such a device so great that

    • by dcollins (135727)

      "... an anti-big-brother society like America"

      Sadly, I see absolutely no practical evidence for this in the modern era.

      Some propaganda to the contrary, yes, but even 1984 had its "Freedom is slavery".

      • by XiaoMing (1574363)

        "... an anti-big-brother society like America"

        Sadly, I see absolutely no practical evidence for this in the modern era.

        Some propaganda to the contrary, yes, but even 1984 had its "Freedom is slavery".

        Ahh but see, my main emphasis is on complacency, which there is plenty of, and is what's most likely squashing any of these missing sentiments:

        Look at Facebook and Google. There is always some modicum of unrest when they release any new features that further erode privacy standards.
        I'll agree that YES, they almost always get their way (aside from Google Buzz being annoying as hell and immediately rescinded), however the two main differences from those situations and this is:

        1. FB and Google exist on the i

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      The only way I see this being even remotely commercially feasible (especially in an anti-big-brother society like America) is:

      3. Collude with competitors with no fear of being stopped by the government (because they want to be able to easily spy on citizens) to ensure that Americans can't get any new TVs without one.

  • by leftie (667677) on Monday May 30, 2011 @02:03PM (#36289540)

    TV watches you. ;)

  • My next TV accessory will be some Duct Tape.
  • This is so scary, it's surreal.

    I better buy some black electrical tape.

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Monday May 30, 2011 @02:20PM (#36289756)

    I'm fully capable of determining my own level of interest, thank you very much. I'm also fully capable of choosing what to watch. It's not like I wind up missing out on a series that I would have loved if only it had been recommended to me.

    This really isn't a problem for me that need to be solved.

    No matter, I'll spend a little more money on electrical tape to cover up the camera.

  • Now we'll have TV's watching porn instead of us watching it on TV!
  • by PPH (736903)

    Seen while masturbating to porn ....

    "Can't get it up? Would you be interested in some ED medication? Or perhaps something guaranteed to add 2 inches."

  • TV WATCH YOU

  • "It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself--anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face...; was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime..."

  • Not so long as tape or towels exist it won't.

  • I for one welcome our Soviet overlords!

  • Black electrical tape will fix that spying camera in 5 seconds.
  • "extracurricular activities" whilst watching, shall we say, content intended for mature audiences?

    Can't see this working for long. Anyone aware of these cameras and not explicitly into exhibitionism of some kind will immediately cover or otherwise disable the camera (don't we already have webcams for this kind of thing?)

    Next it will be people that don't want their kids being viewed in the privacy of their own home by complete strangers. Some folks get really touchy about that.

It's a naive, domestic operating system without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption.

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