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Smart View : Using Cameras in Set Top Boxes to Analyze Viewer’s Reactions


It has finally happened. All this while—since the time John Logie Baird invented television—it has been one-way traffic. People watch TV. They do have the option to change channels or even switch the tube off. But they can’t do anything apart from that. Now Comcast is in the process of testing new technologies which it hopes will take care of the common ‘there-is-nothing- good-on-the-TV-today’ complaint.

In an informal talk a senior Comcast executive (the firm is also a big ISP in North America) has mooted using cameras in set top boxes. These cameras would use smart technology to recognize who is sitting on the couch based on body forms. There is no face recognition feature suggested as of now, which means that people don’t need to have a picture of their face in the system. It will be used to provide contextual advertisements, as well as shows based on past preferences. Also, if a family is watching a show and there are any inappropriate scenes that require parental controls the system will automatically censor them.

This system, however, has plenty of scope for misuse. Many people won’t necessarily want a camera looking into their living rooms, which would easily be construed as invasion of privacy. Combine this with the fact that Comcast has a history of unscrupulous business tactics like surreptitiously blocking selected traffic like torrent downloads, and we are pretty sure this will get the thumbs down. That said, under proper regulations and monitoring by a responsible body, this system could be a pretty useful tool, especially when parents worry about kids watching FTV on the sly.

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