TV-centric Xbox One could reward users for watching ads

30 May 2013

Xbox One

A patent filed by Microsoft earlier this month hints at technology that may be used in the forthcoming Xbox One entertainment system to monitor users’ viewing habits and reward them for watching certain content.

The ‘Awards and Achievements Across TV Ecosystem’ patent was filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office on 16 May by Microsoft. It describes an awards system based on users’ content viewing behaviour and the achievement of specified ‘user-viewing goals’.

Why develop such technology? The document claims it’s to promote user engagement, as well as to help advertisers get their content in front of them. “To increase interactive viewing and encourage a user to watch one or more particular items of video content, awards and achievements may be tied to those items of video content,” the patent filing states. “Producers, distributors, and advertisers of the video content may set viewing goals and award a viewer who has reached the goals.”

These user rewards could boost a viewer’s score (whether that refers to activity in a video game or not is unclear), update their avatar (presumably a badge of honour), or unlock other previously locked rewards.

The goals required to receive these awards can involve watching a movie, or an entire series or single episode of a TV show. But, as great as it sounds to be rewarded for watching TV, the patent also specifies that user-viewing goals can also involve watching advertisements – and therein lies the rub.

Xbox One is watching you

In case the quote extracted above didn’t make it clear enough, this technology is very likely a vehicle to pump advertising in front of Xbox One users. Goals could also require users to perform specific actions while watching content, including showing products to, presumably, the Kinect sensor or, quite simply, being in the room as the content plays. So, while you’re viewing content, your Xbox will be watching you to make sure you’re paying attention.

While the patent does not mention the Xbox One directly, it references a computing system hooked up to a display device with one or more optional sensors. This description very closely resembles that of an Xbox One and, considering Microsoft’s TV-centric approach at the system’s unveiling, it’s impossible to imagine this service coming through any other platform.

This technology could still be in the early stages of development, though, and we may not see it integrated with the Xbox One at launch. However, it could be involved by the time the Steven Spielberg-produced Halo TV series arrives – and what better vehicle to drive it?

Microsoft, meanwhile, is remaining tight-lipped. In a statement to The Telegraph, the company said, “Microsoft regularly applies for and receives patents as part of its business practice; not all patents applied for or received will be incorporated into a Microsoft product.”

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.