Skip to main content

Your Next Verizon Cable Box May Be Able To Watch And Listen To You In Your Own Home

The Boob Tube

If you thought mannequins watching you while you shop was a creepy thought, what about your DVR watching you on the couch? This is the future Verizon has in store for targeted marketing. 

Ars Technica writes Verizon has filed a patent titled, “Methods and Systems for Presenting an Advertisement Associated with an Ambient Action of a User.” And yes, it’s as creepy as it sounds.

The technology produces targeted advertisements based on what you’re doing at that particular moment. Upon hearing of this tech, my first thought was, “So, if you’re having sex, do you get a condom commercial?” The answer? Basically, yeah. Here are a few things the patent application lists as “ambient actions” the box would recognize:

  • eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, talking, singing, humming, cleaning, and playing a musical instrument.
  • an interaction between the user and another user.
  • interaction between the user and the another user comprises at least one of cuddling, fighting, participating in a game or sporting event, and talking.
  • interaction by the user with a separate mobile device.

It states the technology will utilize “gesture recognition technology, a profile recognition technology, a facial recognition technology, and a voice recognition technology.” A user profile will also play a role in the targeted ads but delving deeper, it also says it will select “advertisement based on the determined mood of the user.” So like, if you’re crying, you get a tissue commercial or maybe antidepressants? Weird. It will also take your physical attributes into account which, on top of everything else, will likely lead to a lot of problems (“Did my TV just call me fat?”)

“Verizon is far from the first company to think of this unassailably creepy use for a set-top box,” writes Ars Technica. “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.”

I think it goes without saying that technology like this would have to be opted into by the consumer. There are already televisions out there that will turns itself off if you aren’t looking at it and that freaks me out enough. Is this something you’d be interested in or does it cross a line?

(via Death and Taxes, image via Impact Lab)

Are you following The Mary Sue on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, & Google +?

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."