They’ve got a TV eye on you

Paul Raven @ 14-08-2009

Much as we all bemoan the relentless increase of surveillance technologies in our countries, it appears that the cable TV companies are confident that we’ll just invite it in to our homes if there’s enough of an incentive. After all, who wouldn’t want a set-top DVR unit with a camera so it could tell how many people were watching, guess what demographics they were from and then serve them more relavent advertising?

Prime Sense, an Israel-based company founded in 2005 that raised $20.4 million in “B” round funding last May, showed off a 3D camera that can hook into a cable set-top or any other display with a USB interface.

The camera, powered by Prime Sense’s chip, projects an infrared (IR) field into the room to help determine what’s in front of the camera, going as far as identifying which “users” are sitting in front of the TV, based on their thermal images.

That said, they’re looking at other less intrusive capabilities as well:

… cable’s interest in Prime Sense might also extend to its “virtual touch” system, which “projects” a keyboard or another interface near the user, allowing him or her to navigate video program guides or move content around using hand gestures instead of pressing buttons on a remote control.

Prime Sense, however, is in the hardware business, hoping to get its technology built into a wide range of set-tops and gaming consoles. It’s in the process of working with third-party developers to create apps for its 3D-sensing technology, according to Suneil Mishra, Prime Sense’s VP of sales and marketing for the U.S., who discussed the technology during a conference call earlier today. He says Prime Sense is ready to start mass production, with some undisclosed customers already in the pipeline.

Hmmm. Maybe I’m just more paranoid than most. How many of you would install one of these systems in full knowledge of its surveillance capabilities? [via TechDirt]

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2 Responses to “They’ve got a TV eye on you”

  1. Rick York says:

    If they’ll allow the state to treat them like criminals and, they continue to give companies their most personal information. why would they not invite the cable companies in to their homes?

    Go figure.

  2. S Jones says:

    I had the same reaction to Microsoft’s Natal prototype XBox peripheral that was all the rage at the E3 gaming conference this year. (Link: http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2009/06/e3-microsoft-live-blog/)

    Seen from a gamer’s point of view it is near magic: Your body motions are tracked and you become the game controller without any gamepads/nunchucks/floorpads, etc. Like your example, it even recognizes you individually to customize game options, etc.

    How awesome is that … until you put on your paranoid hat. Will it dawn on people that this is a networked camera (via the XBox) that doesn’t just passively see an image of your room but knows who’s there and what they are doing in 3D space? (_shivers_) Having just read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother where Xbox’s are wielded as a Trojan horse of oppression (until they are hacked), it seems crazy stupid/naive to bring an all-seeing EyeToy into your living room.

    Still, I can see us inviting them in anyway but I hope they come with a clear and physical privacy convention such as a metal shutter. This is one case where a little trust-me-I’m-not-watching-you LED indicator just won’t cut it.