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Microsoft eyes Kinect for parental control

Kinect, Microsoft's motion-detecting gaming accessory, may soon play the role of automated nanny, restricting access to television shows or video games with mature content if it detects what it perceives to be a child in a room. In a patent filed with the US Patent Office, Microsoft proposed to use a 3D depth camera like that in the Kinect to measure the a person's bodily proportions and determine if the person is an adult or a child. "To facilitate controlling access to an electronic media device, a technique is provided which automatically determines an age group of a user in a field of view of a camera. The user's body is tracked in the field of view and used to obtain a 2-D or 3-D body model. Various metrics can be obtained from the 3-D model and correlated with a specific age group, based on ontogeny of the human body. Based on the age group, a profile of the user can be automatically updated with various parental control settings which control access to the electronic media device," it said in its patent application. When two or more people are in a room, they may be associated with different age groups, and a policy can be implemented that "the youngest person is not exposed to inappropriate content." But it is also possible for an older age group to prevail, if it is acceptable for the younger person to view the content when an older person is present. "For instance, a child alone may be permitted to view only a G-rated movie, while an adult alone is permitted to view an R-rated movie. As a compromise, the child and parent together are permitted to view, say, a PG-rated movie. Thus, the allowed content rating is intermediate to the lower and higher content ratings," it said. On the other hand, the system can be set up such that if an adult is watching mature content and a child enters the room, substitute content can be provided. A separate article on GeekWire said this may give parents a new advantage over their tech-savvy kids, who can easily circumvent existing parental controls. But as for adults with short arms or other seemingly childlike proportions, there may be an override for someone with an administrator password. Inventors listed on the patent application include Aaron Kornblum, a lawyer who works as director of security policy for Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business; John Clavin, an Xbox intellectual property and licensing manager; and Gaelle Vialle, who previously worked as a group manager for the Xbox Live entertainment business. The application was originally submitted in March 2010, and made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office September 29. — TJD, GMA News