The same technology that lets the Xbox 360 recognize users who step into the Kinect camera's field of view could also let Microsoft control who can play games or watch downloaded movies on everything from TVs to cell phones. As reported by Eurogamer, Microsoft has filed a patent application for "Content Distribution Regulation by Viewing User."
Originally filed in April 2011, the application describes a system where cameras on a TV, cell phone, or other display identify how many people are watching content on screen, and check to make sure that the user's license for that content covers that many viewers. If it doesn't, the game or movie in question could be halted and the user prompted to purchase more licenses before resuming. The system could also use recognition technology to identify specific users and permit or change access based on their profiles.
As the patent 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."