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Kinect: You Are the Controlled 156

Posted by timothy
from the read-'em-but-avoid-weeping dept.
theodp writes "GeekWire reports on a newly-surfaced Microsoft patent application for 'Targeting Advertisements Based on Emotion', which describes how information gleaned from Kinects, webcams, online games, IMs, email, searches, webpage content, and browsers could be used to build an 'Emotional State Database' of individuals' emotions over time for advertisers to tap into. From the patent application: 'Weight-loss product advertisers may not want their advertisement to appear to users that are very happy. Because, a person that is really happy, is less likely to purchase a self-investment product that leverages on his or her shortcomings. But a really happy person may purchase electronic products or vacation packages. No club or party advertisers want to appear when the user is sad or crying. When the user is emotionally sad, advertisements about club parties would not be appropriate and may seem annoying or negative to the user. Online help or technical support advertisers want their advertisements to appear when the user is demonstrating a confused or frustrated emotional state.'"
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Kinect: You Are the Controlled

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  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:18PM (#40276741)
    Why am I thinking of the old Clippy cartoon, "You look like you are writing a suicide note..." and now with ads for rope, guns, cheap Canadian pharmacies...
  • by newcastlejon (1483695) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:21PM (#40276779)
    If Kinect can see my enraged expression at yet another ad with loud, obnoxious music peddling something I've not the slightest interest in and show a different one I'd be happy... or to be more precise, less angry.
    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @04:18PM (#40277253) Journal
      Even better: apparently you can wear your "crying" mask for a relaxed, ad-free evening of TV viewing.

      Seriously, where have we gone wrong? Somehow, ads seem to have become so important that they have to be crammed into every waking second of our lives (and perhaps into our sleeping time too, at some point). The amount of advertising still seems to be going up, with an every increasing number of commercial breaks, and more recently the annoying popups and overlays during the shows themselves. And everybody's sick of it. Yet there's no apparent consumer outcry for less advertising.

      Sure, ads pay for part of the content, but at some point you'd think the market gets saturated. We can increase ads from 6 blocks an hour to 12, have constant overlays, product placement and perhaps ad jingles playing the the background of the show's audio track, but at some point consumers aren't going to buy more, and ad budgets are going to be exhausted. Or have companies entered into some sick arms race, were your ad *has* to be the loudest, and in all of the 12 commercial breaks during one show, in order to beat the competition?
      • by hairyfish (1653411) on Monday June 11, 2012 @04:31AM (#40280765)

        Seriously, where have we gone wrong? Somehow, ads seem to have become so important that they have to be crammed into every waking second of our lives (and perhaps into our sleeping time too, at some point).

        I think about this everyday, not just the physical assault of advertising that I have to confront every day, but also just information in general, especially regular old signs. My house is almost ad free, I listen to commercial free radio, and generally watch recorded TV which I can FF through ads, so when I step out of my house it is immediately apparent how bad it is getting. At my bus stop there are a least half a dozen signs telling me it's a bus stop, what buses stop there, that I'm not allowed to park my car there, that I can't smoke there, and I should put my litter in the bin. Then I get on the bus. Let people off the bus first, don't talk to the driver whilst bus is in motion, you can't buy a ticket on the bus as it's prepay only, I have to stand behind the line, I should give my seat up should someone older/worse gets on, don't put my feet on the seats, put your hand over your mouth when you cough, here's a number to call for updated timetable info, here's the graffiti hotline... It is absolutely absurd. Next time you go for a drive in any half decent size city see if you can count the amount of council road signs you come across. You can't even count them let alone read them all. There must an economy of a medium sized country being spent on plastering every centimetre of countryside with signs that no-one pays attention to.

    • by Asic Eng (193332) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @06:47PM (#40278163)

      Just because they are filing for that patent doesn't mean they have any plans using it. I imagine MS - like many technology companies - have a program where employees are encouraged to submit patent ideas. The idea is to pad the patent war chest - you will need it to defend yourself even if you don't want to attack.

      Basically there is no part in the typical company patent program which says: "let's see if we can use this". Either the patent is submitted by the design group which implements it (or could implement it) or they will never hear from it.

      I design ASICs (surprise) and I never hear from patents any of the other design groups in my company file, and I never tell other design groups about the patents we file. Unless the idea is implemented in some module and then reused. We have quite aggressive patent goals, so there would be quite a number.

      I suspect somebody at MS had an idea that he thought would pass through the patent process and wanted to get the award money, so that's why he filed it.

      Oh and good news: thanks to this MS patent we may now never see this crap idea on Android phones.

  • by hardeep1singh (1272968) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:23PM (#40276805)
    Ads might help bring the prices down for Kinect hardware, once its mainstream some version of Adblock for Kinect will come along.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:35PM (#40276937)

      I personally don't like being tracked at this level of detail, because it exposes me to risks of identity theft, lifestyle discrimination, and possibly even government intimidation. Is this just old-people-paranoia over risks so tiny that they are laughable? I really don't know. But I DO know that I maintain completely separate identities on the few social networking tools I actually use (no facebook or linkedin or any of that...my skype account is for work only, my ventrillo account isn't monitored by microsoft or google, none of my email accounts have my real name associated with them, etc).

      This doesn't mean I have escaped tracking. By virtue of the fact that I own a credit card I already have a consumer profile available for purchase by anyone with the right industry connections (and so do you, of course). But by keeping my identities scattered, I minimize the amount that any single entity knows about me (and keep it to zero in some cases, since they know something about someone they can't identify), and still get most of the benefits the services provide.

      So I am not off the grid, I am just blury. Being blury minimizes my risks. You can be blury too, if you bother to put an ounce of effort into it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:25PM (#40276823)

    There's no reason a happy fat person wouldn't be interested in a weight loss product. Being happy doesn't mean happy about being fat.

    Sounds more like the marketing is targeting the unhappy because they are more vulnerable and susceptible to buying crap; it's not /product/ related

    • by kdemetter (965669) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @04:31PM (#40277341)

      Also, unhappy people may be so deep they feel they can't change.
      If they sell it as 'easy to lose weight' , many people might be tempted, but it's not going to work. It's just taking money from people who are already unhappy.

      I would like to see honest advertisements, about things I really want, with the information I want,and nothing else.
      Do that, and not only will it be much less annoying, it will also be more effective ( as you targeting people who actually want to buy it ).

  • by anarkhos (209172) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:31PM (#40276885)

    Does it patch me through to MS tech support and turn on my hot cocoa maker?

  • by sgt_doom (655561) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:37PM (#40276961)
    Futura Fantasia

    Class 201: The Dark Ages

    Today we examine the early 21st century nation state once referred to as “America” but now classified as the Dark Age. The political and financial manipulation practiced on the masses then was through a deftly controlled network of so-called think tanks, foundations, research centers and pre-positioned academics.

    An excellent example would be a pseudo-educational complex, MIT, later bombed and razed during the Revolution of 2023 (see Mbotu and Heineman, Zeno ScholarGrid, circa 2045), where academics referred to as “economists” would spread propaganda and misinformation while pretending to represent the interests of the people.

    One academic poseur, whose position was financed by the military-intel firm, Mitre, would mislead and confuse on labor economics. Another academic poseur, whose position was financed through a series of phantom foundations by the oligarch, the family known as the Rockefellers, would mix truth and fiction, confusing and bewildering the masses while claiming that his backers, the Rockefellers, had given away their fortune through philanthropy.

    These were dark times, indeed!

    The same political henchmen and women would continue to re-surface in presidential administration through presidential administration, from the Carter administration through Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush (the son of the previously mentioned Bush – evidently some type of quasi-dynastic rule?), Obama and Mueller; difficult to believe so many were so easily duped, but literacy was at an all-time low during the Dark Age.

    The ruling oligarchs of that period had succeeded in hiding their ownership and wealth, and the populace strangely enough appeared to remain incurious as to who exerted control over their daily lives.

    Many routinely believed the political lackeys and servants of the oligarchs were actually in control – difficult as that may be to accept today – that was the reality in that era. (See Rule by the Hegemon, Chao and Zuma, circa 2051).

    “Class, please review Chapter 17: Mind Control Through Cloud Computing and Social Networking for next week.”

    [Soft tones signal end of session]

    Note: Futura Fantasia was the name Ray Bradbury gave his high school newspaper which he published frequently during his later school years.

    Ray Bradbury
    1920-2012
    Rest In Peace, Oh Mighty and Eloquent Wordsmith.

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:41PM (#40276987)

    Just another detail in the race to implement constant commercial surveillance of everybody's home and another reason to opt-out of this technical innovation.

    A few more of the stories and the idea of being watched by your TV will seem normal. But not acceptable to me or anybody who cares even slightly about privacy.

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:49PM (#40277043) Journal
    If this is the direction the Internet is going, then it's getting close to time to dump it completely. What they're describing is a total and complete invasion of people's privacy, and I for one won't stand for it.
  • by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:49PM (#40277045)
    Here's a new idea: Turn that Kinect or other camera around and point it at a video feed that comes from somewhere else. Say I want to watch cerain kinds of ads. I substitute the video feed from the Kinect (or Sanyo or whatever device) with a video stream designed to elicit the kinds of ads I want to see. It never actually sees me. It sees old Leave it to Beaver reruns, or Scooby Doo episodes. Whatever you want. Or turn it around and show it the program that it's sending you right now. That would be an interesting experiment in itself. Would it settle into one of a number of stable advertising states?
  • by tryptogryphic (1985608) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:56PM (#40277107)
    You know what I do...whenever im on someone's laptop doing something with it, i tape paper over the built in webcam, and if i owned an x-box (which I think qualifies you to suffer all kinds of stupidity for being stupid enough to actually own it) with a kinnect...i'd just unplug it when not using it if i were concerned about privacy
  • by scsirob (246572) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @04:06PM (#40277181)

    Am I the only one who is tempted to put duct tape on everything with a camera on it? We have curtains to keep people from peeking in. Why do we accept total strangers to watch us, analyze us and 'target' us with advertizing crap?!?

    • by rrohbeck (944847) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @05:07PM (#40277613)

      I only buy laptops and webcams with a mechanical shutter,

      • by NF6X (725054) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @09:56PM (#40279043) Homepage

        The things I buy that come with a camera that I don't want usually don't have mechanical shutters, since I tend to favor those shiny Apple products. So, I stick labels over the unwanted cameras. Ditto on the Lenovo Thinkpads that they force me to use at work. On my MacBook Pro, Apple conveniently put a strong magnet right next to the camera, so it gets a 2" length of a metal machinist's ruler stuck there, with a small hole punched in it to expose the ambient light sensor. I can easily slide it aside for those very rare occasions when I want to use the built-in camera.

        Why is it getting so difficult to find any product without a camera, clock, flashlight and/or AM/FM radio integrated into it any more? Get off my lawn!

  • by gilgongo (57446) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @04:10PM (#40277205) Homepage Journal

    I'd be more willing to pay attention to this news if the history of "targeted advertising" hadn't been so wonderfully, idiotically, shit. Perhaps a Microsoft offering like this might just achieve something worthwhile, but I'm not holding my breath. Let's see how the much-vaunted personalisation algos are these days:

    I splash my personal browsing habits and general information all over the web (I don't even log out of FB most of the time) yet I have never been aware of anything other than random, pathetically irrelevant ads. As of writing, I have my Gmail open in another tab and I'm looking at an automated mail from Spotify that says "Anna just joined Spotify" - Anna is a friend of mine. Now, what do you think the mighty Google might be selecting, given that it knows lots and lots about me, and reads all my emails numbering tens of thousands? Tadaa!! "How To Declare Bankruptcy" and "Easy Web Site Builder". WFT? I'm not even self-employed, have never been in fact, and tons of my emails deal with subjects such as Apache and MySQL (I maintain a small little server for my friends). Why the hell would I want an easy web site built?

    Maybe that was atypical. Let's try another. Here's one from a recruitment agent asking me about a job in user experience (I'm a designer). Google decides to show me these: "Gap Year Placements" and "Doctors in hot demand" - Huh?? I'm not a student!! I'm not a doctor!! Does Google know NOTHING about me after over five years of intensive Gmail use??

    I dunno, maybe if I was a one-eyed teenage porno extra or something, I might be seeing relevant stuff in my datasphere, but right now it's just not happening.

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @05:38PM (#40277809)

      I'd be more willing to pay attention to this news if the history of "targeted advertising" hadn't been so wonderfully, idiotically, shit.

      While I would totally like to believe that targetted marketing is useless, even harmful because of the waste of talent spent on it and the side-effects of creating massive tracking databases, I think your criticism is naive.

      Most people confuse targetted marketing with showing them "ads for stuff they want." That's not true. Targetted marketing is no different from any other form of marketing - the goal is to increase sales, full stop. The problem with self-reporting the ineffectiveness of advertising is that everybody universally under-reports the effect advertising has on them.

      Everybody likes to believe they are immune to the effects of advertising when they just don't understand how it works. It isn't necessarily about click-throughs, it is about planting the seed of an idea in your head. For example, you may not want an easy web site builder, but your knowledge of web servers may be enough for friends to come to you looking for advice on such things. And even if your instinct is to do some research before giving out any recommendations, that seed in your head could be enough to make you start your research by searching google for a phrase that was in the ad and will now bring up that product as the first hit. You can't research everything on the market, so chances are you are going to end up recommending one of the products on the first page of hits in google so that ad has done its job.

      • Good point, well made.

        So what's the difference between targeted and non-targeted advertising in that case?

        • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @07:56PM (#40278509)

          So what's the difference between targeted and non-targeted advertising in that case?

          I'd say it is a continuum where "targetting" can mean any attempt to get a better response than a purely scatter-shot approach. For example advertising paycheck-cashing services on the back of seats in public busses - not everyone riding the bus is going to be a potential customer, but it's probably a lot higher percentage than the population in general.

          What I would like to believe is that "targetting" is subject to the law of diminishing returns. That after a point, the effort required to narrow down the group that receives an advertisment starts to exceed the improvement in response rate. I hope that point turns out to be somewhere less than the effort of Big Data cyberstalking the crap out of everyone facebook/google-style. However, I worry that Big Data will figure out that targetted advertising is not the only market for their databases and that the other revenue streams (like background checks for employers, landlords, the FBI, insurance companies, poltical incumbents, private investigators, etc) will be enough to make it profitable in the long run.

      • by hairyfish (1653411) on Monday June 11, 2012 @04:49AM (#40280849)

        I think your criticism is naive.

        Most people confuse targetted marketing with showing them "ads for stuff they want." That's not true. Targetted marketing is no different from any other form of marketing - the goal is to increase sales, full stop.

        And how it does that is by looking at what you searched for and sending you ads about it. It's no more complicated than that. If you search for " I'm a jew and hate the nazis" you'll get ads about how to enlist in the german army.

        It isn't necessarily about click-throughs, it is about planting the seed of an idea in your head.

        Well this isn't very cost effective marketing for a particular brand. If company A spends millions to plant a concept in my head, then sometime later I get brainwashed into liking the idea, but because the idea was subliminally inserted I proceed to buy the product from company B then how does this help company A? In my experience there is nothing even remotely clever going on. If you search for "cars" you will get bombarded with ads for cars, even if you've also searched for "I'm legally blind and can't legally drive", you'll still get ads about new cars. targeted advertising is rubbish, at least for anyone with not easily manipulated by a sock puppet

    • I recall reading an article - I believe it was here on /. - where a certain supermarket network was explaining their experience with targeted advertising. One thing they said they had found out is that many people find advertising that is clearly targeted at certain specific things about their life as outright spooky, and reacted very emotionally and negatively. So what they did, then was to put one or two targeted ads alongside a bunch of random stuff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2012 @04:17PM (#40277237)

    Bipverts? Making it illegal to turn the TV off?

  • by dittbub (2425592) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @04:25PM (#40277301)
    Where controller controls ME?
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @04:32PM (#40277353) Homepage Journal
    If it weren't for this I would never have learned about this Prozac ice cream and the Microsoft Anti-Fan club! Ok technically it's my local LUG, but I'd never have learned about them had Microsoft not detected my intense hatred of them and delivered an ad!
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @04:33PM (#40277361) Homepage Journal

    And they cant see boo. If they start reading my private messages and emails so they can mine 'emotional states', i'm suing for privacy invasion.

    If i post something public that i can be identified by, well that is my fault.

  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @05:30PM (#40277771)

    ... assume an expression of "Too smart to buy your advertised shit"?

    A large dose of cynicism, some superiority and a touch of apathy. I'm going to work on it in the mirror right now.

  • by aralin (107264) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @06:38PM (#40278127)

    What about not showing me yet another Geico advertisement when I get angry every time I see their logo, reinforcing my negative feelings from years back when they ripped me off, which I am reminded of every time I watch their commercials and which I would likely forget about otherwise after those 11 years. Good job Geico. Same goes for other companies.

    If you got a tech to judge my emotional state, don't judge it before the ad, judge the way I react to it and if its a strongly negative one (annoyed, angry, frustrated), just stop the ad right away. If its bored, I'd probably seen it and still remember so no need to watch more than 5s spot, since you already reminded me of the product, so safe to stop that as well, but maybe not remove from circulation like in the former case.

    Also, ad delivery networks should understand that they are damaging their own brand by consistently showing me ads from companies I hate with passion. They get to share the feelings by association. So since every other ad on Hulu is from Geico, they managed to change their image from a favorite service to a place I dread to go and would rather pay for the content if available than to watch it on Hulu with stupid Geico ads. Good job on ignoring my 250 nos on the "Is this ad relevant?" question, Hulu. Bravo.

    Just my 2c

  • by koan (80826) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @10:10PM (#40279107)

    Jump lab rat jump.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2012 @10:47PM (#40279299)

    That useless hunk of shit I overpaid wayyyy to much on because of promises of cool games and interaction that lost its novelty after about 2 weeks because taking more time and energy to wave my hand and talking outloud instead of just pushing a button is actually being used by enough people to warrant this kind of advertising?

    Kinect is a waste of money and plastic. The wiimote is a better control device than the kinect the wiimote is a piece of shit that isnt 1/10th as good as the ps3 Move which still even it sucks because motion control sucks, I just got dazzled by it and foolishly bought a kinect. Luckily amazon was more than happy to refund my money.

    Back to the advertising. I dont give a rats ass because I dont watch tv. I DVR stuff the very few programs I want to see on history channel, pbs and discovery. Everything else I watch for free online or access via netflix. Aside from banners on websites I havent actually had to watch a commercial so far this entire year more than just a few times. No way in hell Im doing anything on my console that will push more commercials on me.

    Hell I dont even have my 360 hooked up to the internet and havent for a year or more just because there is no reason for me to. I refuse to pay for XBL when I can play games online free on my pc and 360, I can watch shows and movies on netflix, and well basically I dont do anything with my 360 but play single player games that are exclusive to it that I cant get on my ps3 and then pc first.

    Fuck the kinect, fuck advertisements and fuck the kinect watching me to tell me what ads to show me. Last thing I want is a god damn device watching me.

  • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Monday June 11, 2012 @12:06AM (#40279661) Journal

    I find *ALL* advertising to be annoying and unwanted, the more custom tailored it is to me the more offensive I find it. Also, advertising seems to operate under the assumption that people have money to spend. Tell me, how is an advertising based economy going to work when every year more and more people are unemployed? I don't care how targeted and relevant your ads are, people without jobs aren't going to buy your product/service.

    The advertising economy is headed for a huge crash. It's a scam, top to bottom.

  • by organgtool (966989) on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:46AM (#40282719)
    When I first saw this headline, I was enraged at the fact that something like the natural progression of targeted advertising could be covered by a patent. Then I thought about it for a second and realized that the inability of companies other than Microsoft to perform this kind of targeted advertising may actually be a good thing for me. Since I don't use many Microsoft services, I won't have to worry about being assaulted with this kind of advertising from the services I do use.

    On a somewhat related note, perhaps companies should be more concerned with overloading their viewers with their ads. After a couple of days of browsing YouTube and seeing a 30-second spot for SK Energy or Vitamin Water every 10 minutes, I can guarantee that I will never buy any of their products. If I was a dick, I would file a patent for offering advertising services that guarantee that the ad would only be displayed to a user once every few hours to ensure that I don't overload them with my ads and push them away from my product.
  • by DarthVain (724186) on Monday June 11, 2012 @12:00PM (#40284535)

    You look unhappy Dave...

    Also makes me think of the robot from the movie "Moon".

    Waiting for next generation psychological software now...

    In the future everyone will wear privacy masks.

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