Microsoft Seeks Patent for Age Detection

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft is proposing a new patent that would see its Xbox 360 peripheral, the Kinect, take on the role of a virtual babysitter. It works by automatically restricting a child's access to certain television shows or video games that carry a mature content rating.

Through the use of its 3D depth camera, the Kinect would be able to measure the bodily proportions of a user and detect whether or not a child is in the room. The entire concept is based on parental control and would be treated as a manageable feature. The system could also be further tweaked to specify certain restrictions and content.

Kinect Parental Control Boasts 'Specific Restrictions'

" The USPTO patent explains that the 'age group' of a player can be determined based on the 3D body model that Kinect captures. Relative head and body size, arm length-to-body ratio, 'and/or a ratio of head-width to shoulder width,' can all be factors." (Source:

For example: one user might be allowed to access G-rated television shows and movies, while another would be given access all programs. Having a child and adult in the room together, however, might open the restrictions to allow PG-rated shows and movies. (Source:

In another instance, an adult that is viewing mature content might have their programming interrupted if a child enters the room. In this situation, an appropriate channel alternative would be offered in its place.

Concerns with Proposed Kinect Patent

There are some concerns, however, with the proposed patent.

One criticism suggests that Kinect-based parental settings could easily by manipulated and overcome. Analysts contend that existing parental control services are even more susceptible to being accessed by children, and that the Kinect-based version actually offers an added sense of security for the concerned parent.

Another critique pertains to adults who have child-like proportions and run the risk of having the Kinect mistake them for a child. This becomes a manageable concern, since the Kinect-based system would be password-protected and remain an opt-in feature. (Source:

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