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Keep your telescreens on comrades
March 23, 2008 5:59 AM   Subscribe

With Comcast, your TV watches you. Comcast is developing cable boxes with cameras to watch the room. They will know who is there to provide shows in your profile, engage parental controls, and of course, deliver targeted advertising. Ceiling Cat Comcast is watching you....
posted by caddis (44 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Sadly, the Comcast program was defeated with tape.
posted by Mach5 at 6:01 AM on March 23, 2008 [14 favorites]


Its interesting to contemplate the possible situations when nanotechnology becomes ubiquitous:

So my TV box is watching me?... then I'll shut it off and go use the bathroom and take a shower. Wait,... while I use the bathroom, it analyzes my excretions and time/water usage and is uploading that data to someone somewhere. Cant do that, so maybe I'll take a nap. Wait... cant do that either because my pillows have embedded sensors that monitor my brainwaves and might notify my therapist that I'm short on REM and long on strange nightmares. Sensors in the floor are alerting my doctor that i've gained 5lbs, so I should go for a walk---wait, dont want to do that either because there are 50 cameras between here and the end of the park...
posted by jmnugent at 6:31 AM on March 23, 2008


As long it lets me watch that channel that shows the boot stamping on a human face forever, I really don't care.
posted by tapeguy at 6:34 AM on March 23, 2008 [34 favorites]


I always feel like there isn't much of a leap from machines suggesting what you should do to telling you what you should do. PASS.
posted by Atreides at 6:34 AM on March 23, 2008


Leaving aside all the creepy 1984 loss of privacy zomg spying implications -- how did this not get laughed out of the boardroom? There wasn't one person anywhere along the line saying "uh, guys? There's this really popular book that had the bad guys doing this. Might be bad publicity, yanno?"
posted by cmyk at 6:35 AM on March 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


No thank you.
posted by SixteenTons at 6:37 AM on March 23, 2008


Hey, c'mon guys, at least now yelling at the TV won't seem so pointless!
posted by hackly_fracture at 6:38 AM on March 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


that's what the writer's guild gets for going out on strike - the ultimate in reality television
posted by pyramid termite at 7:00 AM on March 23, 2008


DO NOT WANT
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:07 AM on March 23, 2008


S'okay, my comcast box works for shit when it comes to things like "recording programs Iwant to see instead of recording some other show for the 5th time" or "being able to change channel easily" - I don't think it's going to be that good as a home robospy. b
posted by Artw at 7:28 AM on March 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


It'd be a cool feature if Apple did it.
posted by srboisvert at 7:30 AM on March 23, 2008 [11 favorites]


Wow, worst idea ever, good job comcast. Never thought I'd be happy to say that I have Time Warner instead.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 7:38 AM on March 23, 2008


Oh god, don't get me onto the whole double standards on Apple pushing software rant.
posted by Artw at 7:39 AM on March 23, 2008


LARGE BLOB ENTERED ROOM - ENGAGE JUNK FOOD ADS
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:07 AM on March 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


I read about this on the PC World forum; Jenni Moyer, Comcast's PR director logged on and said the system was a gesture-based interface a vendor had demonstrated. It's a supposed proof of concept that tracks movements for the UI, but doesn't phone back with details on viewers or their habits.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:08 AM on March 23, 2008


Can Comcast give me basic cable that doesn't inexplicably fail to include 90% of basic cable channels? And Comcast then not have a website where you might go to correct this problem, but what you actually get is incomprehensible navigation that invariably only leads you to a page where they try to sell you their shitty phone service and high speed internet? Because if so, Comcast watch me sit around and watch Raptor Island on Sci-Fi in my underwear to their heart's content, and my current cable provider can SUCK IT.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:17 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Next up on the Violence Channel, 'Ow, My Balls!'"
posted by Afroblanco at 8:19 AM on March 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


The Neilsen people and other interested powers-that-be have been trying to set up something like this for years.

There is a story that long ago (40s? 60s?) Neilsen developed a set-top-box with a movie camera inside. The camera took picutres very slowly (something like one per minute) whenever the TV was turned on. The idea was that the Neilsen people would be able to see how many people were actually watching the set and how much attention they were paying. People would allow these things in their homes, then forget about them. The Neilsen analysts were treated to more than one or two X-rated home movies.

Later, in the 80s or 90s, Neilsen tried to develop a computer-vision system that could recognize faces well enough to distinguish between familiy members, guests, the dog, etc. I don't know if anything ever came of that.

Personally, I don't want cameras surveiling me. But I think I'm in the minority. Many would be only too happy to allow a camera into their home in exchange for a couple of free cable channels. The principle of privacy seems awfully remote and abstract until it's actually violated in some really offensive way.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:33 AM on March 23, 2008


Gerald Kunkel (or, at least, someone claiming to be Kunkel) left this comment on the blog:

Chris,

Your article on “Comcast Cameras to Start Watching You” portrayed some assumptions that require correction and clarification. I want to be clear that in no way are we exploring any camera devices that would monitor customer behavior.

To gather information for your article on Comcast’s exploration of cameras you picked up on my conversation with another conference attendee. The other attendee and I were deep in a conversation discussing a variety of input devices offered by a variety of vendors that Comcast is reviewing.

The camera-based gesture recognition device is in no way designed to – or capable of – monitoring your living room. These technologies are designed to allow simple navigation on a television set just as the Wii remote uses a camera to manage its much heralded gesture-based interactivity.

We are constantly exploring new technologies that better serve our customers. The goal is simple – a better user experience that allows the consumer to get ever increasing value out of their Comcast products.

As with any new technology, we carefully consider the consumer benefits. In fact, we do an enormous amount of consumer testing in advance of making a product decision such as this. I’m confident that a new technology like gesture-based navigation will be fully explored with consumers to understand the product’s feature benefits – and of course, the value to the consumer.

Sincerely,
Gerard Kunkel


and the author of the post responded:

Hi Mr. Kunkel,

Just to further clarify. After you granted me our initial video interview, you brought up the topic of Comcast knowing who was in the living room in a conversation between you, myself and another conference attendee.

I actually left and came back to follow up on this point while you were talking with that same attendee. At this point, you were aware that I was a reporter and I took handwritten notes in front of you as we talked to make sure I had an accurate accounting of what you were saying.

I’d love to talk further with either you or someone else at Comcast to follow up on this story
.
posted by LeeJay at 8:35 AM on March 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've worked tech support for a Comcast competitor, and one of the largest drivers of calls is issues with the remote - dead batteries, batteries installed backwards, not set to proper TV type, lost it so please send another, buttons wearing out, etc. The gesture-based UI would save them a ton of money, so that explanation rings true.

Grannies with dead batteries far, far outnumber people who've read Orwell.
posted by swell at 9:59 AM on March 23, 2008


Western Infidels - I was going to write what you wrote nearly word-for-word. My father is a head engineer and supervisor of the division at Neilsen that develops the people meters and other metering products. The most passive boxes that only look for the number of people in the room have failed time and again to be rolled out into living rooms because people don't want them.

There's no way Comcast will roll these out unless they're willing to give their product away for free.
posted by photoslob at 10:07 AM on March 23, 2008


Big Brother is 19 years late.
posted by misha at 11:26 AM on March 23, 2008


This is how Skynet started.
posted by papakwanz at 12:16 PM on March 23, 2008


I already begin most days with Two Minutes Hate anyhow, so what's the dif?
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:52 PM on March 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yeah no cameras for me. I currently content with my tivo reporting everything I watch, every rewind, and every pause to HQ. I'm also happy that google has a non-expiring tracking cookie on my browser. Funny how these companies get away with it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:11 PM on March 23, 2008


He gazed up at the enormous logo. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the big C. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Comcast.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:19 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I kind of hope this happens. It will save me the trouble of mailing them a Polaroid of my bare ass every time their fucking box skips recording the last three minutes of a show.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:43 PM on March 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


There's no way Comcast will roll these out unless they're willing to give their product away for free.

"Free Premium Service for one year!* Sign up or renew your service contract now!"
*white vans will be at your house soon with the new cable surveillance equipment.
posted by ninjew at 1:46 PM on March 23, 2008


Is this something you need a TV to know about?

Sorry.
posted by idiomatika at 2:43 PM on March 23, 2008


You know who else sees you when you're sleeping and knows if you're awake, don't you?
posted by Pinback at 2:54 PM on March 23, 2008


By the way, this is all actually the punchline to a Yakov Smirnoff joke.
posted by papakwanz at 3:54 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


any rollout “must add value” to the viewing experience beyond serving ads.

My father is a head engineer and supervisor of the division at Neilsen that develops the people meters and other metering products. The most passive boxes that only look for the number of people in the room have failed time and again to be rolled out into living rooms because people don't want them.

I agree. It's an amusing Fark, but also a non starter. Where's the value? People don't want to touch one button to see "my shows"? I don't buy it. At all.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:25 PM on March 23, 2008


Is this an early April Fools?
posted by Mael Oui at 7:55 PM on March 23, 2008


Actually, come to think of it, this reminds me too much of Graham Linehan's technological nightmare comedy, Hello, Friend! This might be a step away from a Praemus reality!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:03 PM on March 23, 2008


I hope this gesture-based interface responds well to my middle finger.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:06 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is this something you need a TV to know about?

See, I told you that the Vine-Yel guy comments here a lot.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:21 PM on March 23, 2008


Wouldn't it be easier just to put RFIDs in us?
posted by neuron at 10:00 PM on March 23, 2008


You could just not have a TV...

Or is that answer too flip?
posted by bshort at 10:45 PM on March 23, 2008


All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammels and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.


-Richard Brautigan
posted by Inversehelix at 11:08 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


You could just not have a TV...

Woah! That's just crazy talk!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:21 AM on March 24, 2008


“Grannies with dead batteries far, far outnumber people who've read Orwell.”

Yeah, typical.
Fascism - it’s cheaper and easier for idiots!

Still, this is perfect way to try out my “flip you off” mannikin.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:50 PM on March 24, 2008


Now I'm visualize the Comcast box watching subscribers watching porn -- talk about voyeurism!
posted by Robert Angelo at 4:01 PM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


You could just not have a TV...

But then what would I point all my furniture at?
(stolen from an episode of Friends)
posted by misha at 8:44 PM on March 24, 2008


I actually don't see this as a bad thing; I've been looking for a new venue to try out my experimental kabuki sock-puppet theater, and the way I see it, those poor bastards at Comcast are a perfect captive audience.
posted by quin at 7:59 AM on March 25, 2008


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