A patent filed by Microsoft last year, but only made public last week, wants to turn your Xbox 360's Kinect into an instrument via which large companies can monitor your media usage and, if you're found to be in violation of something, charge you for it.
And no, I am not making that up.
The patent application, titled "CONTENT DISTRIBUTION REGULATION BY VIEWING USER", is a means of using Kinect to monitor not just what you're watching (or listening to) on your Kinect, but more importantly, how many people.
Here's the important part, straight from the application itself:
The technology, briefly described, is a content presentation system and method allowing content providers to regulate the presentation of content on a per-user-view basis. Content is distributed to consuming devices, such as televisions, set-top boxes and digital displays, with an associated licence option on the number of individual consumers or viewers allowed to consume the content. The limitation may comprise a number of user views, a number of user views over time, a number of simultaneous user views, views tied to user identities, views limited to user age or any variation or combination thereof, all tied to the number of actual content consumers allowed to view the content. Consumers are presented with a content selection and a choice of licenses allowing consumption of the content. In one embodiment, a licence manager on the consuming device or on a content providers system manages licence usage and content consumption. The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken.
Kinect is never mentioned specifically, but seeing as a camera is going to need to track and identify people in the room, it can't really be anything else.
Basically, when you buy or rent something like a movie, you'll only be granted a "license" for a certain number of people to watch it. If Kinect detects more people in the room than you had a licence for, it can stop the movie, and even charge you extra.
So if Microsoft has its way, you won't just be renting movies any more. You'll have to decide how many people are watching, and no doubt pay more. And if one extra person turns up to your movie night? So help you God, you are going to pay.