Earlier this week, Microsoft
(NASDAQ:MSFT) filed a patent
that will allow its Xbox Kinect device to detect audience size for licensing content. If implemented, this could radically change how consumers are charged for watching movies, TV shows, or special events.
Although the technology has yet to be developed, the patent assumes a future in which content providers, like Microsoft, Netflix
(NASDAQ:NFLX), and Amazon
(NASDAQ:AMZN), can license content based on how many people are detected by the device. According to an article by ReadWriteWeb
, the patent would allow audiences to be charged on a “per-user-view basis,” and impose maximum audience limitations. Should the maximum number of people be exceeded, it’s likely that services would then ask the viewer to re-license their purchase or risk it being shut down or blocked.
Before you assume that only your TVs are in danger, keep in mind that future Kinects, or technology like it, might be able to attach to anything, such as camera-equipped mobile phones, or computers. Should the patent’s tech ever be openly accepted by companies, it’s likely that its technology could find itself in anything with a camera or a screen.
However, the new patent’s impact could affect movie theaters and sports bars most. Theaters like the Regal Entertainment Group
(NYSE:RGC) would likely welcome the technology, as it would be instrumental in helping them scan audiences before showtimes to identify people who hop from screening to screening in an attempt to see multiple movies. On the other hand, a company like Buffalo Wild Wings
(NYSE:BWLD), which pays thousands of dollars for the sporting events it shows at its venues, would likely cringe at the new patent’s implementation, as the charges would no doubt cut into its profits if crowds get too big.
This new Kinect patent is only one of many. Microsoft claims that the device could make our sci-fi dreams some true by creating holodeck-like scenery on walls as seen in Star Trek
, or enable Minority Report-styled computer interaction
, but this new idea is the most draconian. Although the patent may allow some businesses to benefit, consumers would likely feel oppressed by its proposed execution. Hopefully, Microsoft figures out how to balance the device's uses and abuses soon, or else it risks losing the respect it has gained from consumers lately.
No positions in stocks mentioned.