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Technology & Innovation

Targeting TV Advertising By (Literally) Watching The Viewers

Just published last week, Verizon’s patent application enables TVs with specially-outfitted cameras and microphones to detect what’s happening in a room — such as arguing or talking on the phone — and display appropriate advertising.

What’s the Latest Development?

Verizon is the newest company to attempt a way of seeing directly into people’s homes in order to sell them stuff. Its patent application, filed last year and published last week, describes technology that creates a “detection zone” around and outside a TV. In that zone, sensors built into the TV would catch “ambient actions” taking place in the room and use that data to display relevant advertising on the screen. Verizon is developing this technology through a joint innovation lab involving Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks.

What’s the Big Idea?

Ambient actions, as defined in the application, cover a wide range of activities, from eating to arguing to playing with a pet. One example cites what might happen if two people are observed to be snuggling together: An ad could appear showing “a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, [or] a commercial for flowers.” Also included is a description of how Verizon might link tablets and smartphones to the detection system so that ads appear on those devices as well. Perhaps unsurprisingly, company officials declined to comment on the application.

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