theodp writes: Just when you think the cable TV viewing experience couldn't get any worse, GeekWire reports on the Microsoft Xbox Incubation team's patent-pending Consumer Detector, which uses cameras and sensors like those in the Xbox 360 Kinect controller to monitor, count and in some cases identify the people in a room watching television, movies and other content. Should the number of viewers detected exceed the limits of a particular content license, the system would halt playback unless additional viewing rights were purchased. As Yakov Smirnoff might say: In Soviet Russia, Kinect-equipped Motorola Model 20F2 console TV watches your family!
theodp writes: Over at CNN, Omar L. Gallaga explains how Apple's story is like Breaking Bad, the TV drama whose protagonist — high school chemistry teacher Walter White — decides to use his science skills to cook methamphetamine to provide for his family after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Walter takes shocking, out-of-character risks but reinvents himself as a brilliant, feared meth chemist who grows more ambitious, ruthless and cocky with each victory. 'Like Steve Jobs,' writes Gallaga, 'Walter White's cancer awakens a panic in him to hurry up and leave a legacy through his work.' Gallaga continues: 'Like Walter White, it [Apple] has mixed the proper elements at just the right amounts to create highly pure, addictive products. The products have been made within secretive working conditions. The skill employed to design and manufacture them tends to make what competitors put out seem like cheaper, cloudier, less effective imitations.' And if that's not enough to scratch your Breaking Bad itch until tonight's season finale, check out Vice's interview with series creator Vince Gilligan.
theodp writes: In a move that evokes memories of Steve Ballmer's initial pooh-poohing of the iPhone threat, DirecTV Chairman Michael White downplayed the Apple TV hype, expressing doubts that 'Apple's interface will be so much better than DirecTVs' that people will be willing to pay for an extra box. So, will White's statement — 'It’s hard to see (it) obsoleting our technology' — come back to haunt him?
theodp writes: In purchasing Motorola Mobility, Slate's Farhad Manjoo reports that Google will also come into possesion of one the nation's biggest suppliers of set-top boxes. So, can Google work some of its do-no-evil magic on the loathsome cable box? Don't bet on it, says Manjoo. For one thing, there's no evidence that Google would be very good at remaking the set-top box (Google TV, anyone?). But even if Google managed to dramatically improve set-top boxes, it's doubtful that cable and satellite companies would buy in. First, they'd lose all those ridiculously lucrative cable-box rental fees. More importantly, they'd have to give up control of the main entertainment device in most homes, and with it the opportunity to slow or stymie competing sources for entertainment. After the merger, notes Manjoo, Google could get several billion dollars by selling off Motorola Mobility's set-top-box division — a much surer payday than taking on Big Cable.
theodp writes: Any child who's watched Pee-Wee's Playhouse since its debut in the '80s is familiar with the concept of the 'secret word of the day' (often issued by Conky the Robot). 'Now you all know what to do when anyone says the secret word, right?', Pee-Wee Herman would tell the kids. 'Scream real loud!' Apparently unfamiliar with this prior art, the USPTO on Tuesday granted IBM a patent for its invention of the Public Speaking Self-Evaluation Tool, which Big Blue describes thusly: 'The system provides a user interface through which the user is able to define the undesirable words or sounds [e.g. 'Ah', 'Um', 'Like'] that are to be avoided, as well as a maximum frequency of occurrence threshold to be used for providing warning signals based on detection of such filler or undesirable words or sounds.' BTW, IBM advocates switching the U.S. from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file patent system, which some believe will encourage a rush to the patent office with half-baked inventions.