Microsoft has filed a patent which appears to describe camera-based monitoring of digital content users to enforce compliance with software licence policies.
In other words, Microsoft seems to be patenting technology that allows the company to watch users interacting with content by viewing them through their own webcams or other image capture devices.
The patent application states: "Content is distributed to consuming devices, such as televisions, set-top boxes and digital displays, with an associated license option on the number of individual consumers or viewers allowed to consume the content.
"The limitation may comprise a number of user views, a number of user views over time, a number of simultaneous user views, views tied to user identities, views limited to user age or any variation or combination thereof, all tied to the number of actual content consumers allowed to view the content, " the application continues.
The application even goes so far as to discuss the level of dependence Microsoft may place on the camera-based security checks.
"If the license check is successful, then the licensed number of users is allowed to view the content," it says.
"If the license check is not successful... then the user may be presented with a warning that the user has an insufficient license to consume the content relative to the number of licensed users and may further be provided with the opportunity to update the license to include the number of users or views to allow the user to view the content."
The patent application seems to refer to Microsoft's motion and gesture-tracking hardware, Kinect, directly at one point, mentioning that "capture device 620", as it is referred to in the text, "may" be used to "recognize, analyse and/or track human (and other types of) targets".
While by "other types" of target it's unlikely Microsoft is suggesting cats or dogs may be similarly requiring a content licence, the patent application goes on to say that the visual feedback may also be used to discover "whether users are viewing content" and whether this content is "by a content provider".
This part of the application sounds like honed advertising targeting, so the presence of a pet could, for example, theoretically lead decisions on advertising choices by Microsoft and its partners.
The patent application also outlines plans to cover future "head-mounted displays", i.e. so-called ‘3D glasses' with these policies.