In addition to knowing what you watch on TV, future DVRs might also know what you do while watching your favorite shows. Behemoth telecommunications company Verizon recently filed a patent for a new DVR product that can also sense what activities TV viewers are doing while they watch TV. Once the DVR detects what viewers’ are doing while watching TV, it will then deliver advertisements that are relevant to the watchers’ real-time actions. For instance, if a viewer is eating Talenti ice cream, while watching Arrested Development, the DVR might choose to show them ads for ice cream or else ads for a nearby gym. It might also show them ads for the show’s actors’ upcoming movies.
The patent describes the DVR as having a “detection zone” directly in front of the device that will read “ambient action” during TV viewing, and play commercials related to the “action” at the break. Ambient actions might include cuddling, fighting, talking, participating in a game or sports, cleaning, eating, using another technology or sleeping.
Advertisers and ad publishers are continually looking for ways to deliver relevant ads to targets and make sure the desired audience sees specific ads. Online and mobile technologies enable brands and ad servers to deliver ads to the desired audience more consistently, but the efficacy of TV ads continues to be elusive. With the growing trend for consumers to use multiple screens at once, advertisers and brands want to know where consumer focus lands during the TV viewing activity, especially during commercial breaks. This new DVR will allow Verizon to observe consumer laptop, tablet and mobile phone usage, while they watch TV. If the user has Verizon Internet service, Verizon might also enable the delivery of relevant ads to other WiFi-enabled devices, while consumers watch TV.
Verizon is not a trailblazer in this arena; Google, Samsung, and Microsoft have also developed technologies to this end. Microsoft’s patent was for a technology that would use the Kinect as the platform for audience surveillance. In the future, we will use devices to watch programs and the devices will watch us watch them.