Future cable TV boxes may show ads based on viewers' activities
Cable boxes of the future could be able to detect when viewers are cuddling on the sofa and automatically serve adverts for contraceptives.
US cable provider Verizon has applied to patent a set-top box technology that can observe what's going on in the room and show viewers adverts based on what it detects, the Daily Mail reported.
In US Patent Application 20120304206 the company suggests it could detect when people are "cuddling" then show "a commercial for a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers [...] etc."
The technology would integrate a range of sensors into their products, including thermal imaging cameras, microphones and motion sensors, to detect the mood their audience and tailor media content to suit.
Privacy campaigners called the new technology a "privacy nightmare waiting around the corner" and called for it to be reined in "before consumers lose control for good."
The company describes "a media content presentation system" that can detect "an ambient action performed by a user during the presentation of the media content" then select and present "an advertisement associated with the detected ambient action."
The patent application adds: "If detection facility detects one or more words spoken by a user (e.g., while talking to another user within the same room or on the telephone), advertising facility may utilise the one or more words spoken by the user to search for and/or select an advertisement associated with the one or more words."
The application says the sensors would be able to determine whether viewers were "eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, talking, singing, humming, cleaning, playing a musical instrument, performing any other suitable action, and/or engaging in any other physical activity."