Kinect to sense your age, apply parental controls

A Microsoft patent filing has been made public this week, revealing an application for a Kinect-powered age-restriction service. The patent suggests using a 3D depth camera (that’d be the Kinect sensor, or something similar) to measure up the proportions of the person standing in front of it.

By making simple comparisons – head width to shoulder width, torso height to overall height, etc – the system would then determine the person’s approximate age and restrict access to movies, tv shows and games accordingly.

Diagrams from the Microsoft patent filing. (Credit: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

Diagrams from the Microsoft patent filing. (Credit: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

On one hand, it’s a little Big Brother, but on the other, it’s based on undeniable science. The formula does not rely simply on height or build (so those of you who are “big for your age” won’t get an automatic pass), instead using factors that are universal among all children.

Parental controls exist on all three major consoles, but tech-savvy kids often know more than their parents when it comes to circumventing them, so this method could potentially give the grown-ups an extra tool.

In addition to simply locking kids out of games, the Kinect may also be able to work dynamically. The camera takes in the whole room, so it can potentially monitor new people entering and exiting the room. If a person enters and meets the “child” criteria, the Kinect could feasibly switch the Xbox 360 to display “more appropriate” content.

Even though the measurements and proportions are generally fairly accurate, there are always people who don’t fit the “average”. Administrator passwords, overrides and the ability to disable the technology would be built in. Potentially the software could save user profiles, to prevent disabling the entire system.

Originally submitted in early 2010, this application was only recently made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, and it is still awaiting approval as a patent (as spotted by GeekWire).

At this stage, it may be nothing more than a proof of concept, a good idea that someone had one day at Microsoft – but who knows where the company will take it. Perhaps this will be standard in Kinect 2.0!

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