Verizon has filed a patent for a DVR that can watch and listen to the goings-on in your living room. In the application, the company proposes to use the technology to serve targeted ads appropriate to whatever you’re doing in the, uh, privacy of your own home—fighting, cuddling, or hanging out with your cats.
Verizon is far from the first company to think of this unassailably creepy use for a set-top box. Comcast patented similar monitoring technology in 2008 for recommending content based on people it recognizes in the room; Google proposed yet another patent for Google TV that would use audio and video recorders to figure out how many people in a room are watching the current broadcast.
Verizon filed for the application in May 2011, and it was just published last week. (By law, all patent applications are published after 18 months.) In the document, which was first noticed by FierceCable, Verizon gives two examples of the context-sensitive DVR’s use in a couple’s living room: sounds of arguing prompt ads for marriage counseling, while sounds of “cuddling” prompts ads for contraceptives. Charming.
Generally, these uses of cameras and mics frighten the living daylights out of customers (understandably so), so all of these patents have yet to be put to use. Still, the wheels continue to turn in content providers’ heads about how to get eyes and ears in your living room, even as the creepiness factor persists.
Casey Johnston / Casey Johnston is an Associate Writer for Ars Technica covering gadgets, privacy, and tech culture. She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Applied Physics.