The next big thing... TV that watches you

Japanese broadcasting giant NHK has been tinkering with some future tech again, and has come up with a new idea that could revolutionise television viewing; a TV that watches its viewers.

Much like Virgin Media's TiVo boxes, and a few other intelligent television platforms, the new technology learns a user's viewing pattern and adapts programming and, possibly, advertising to suit. However, unlike the current implementations of such an idea, which generally suggest similar shows based on previous recording and viewing habits, NHK's new tech uses the viewer's face to judge what they like and dislike.

Using a camera mounted on top of a TV, UTAN (User Technology Assisted Navigation) estimates degrees of interest, concentration, smiles and frowns from the viewer's face as they watch shows and adverts, and then can tailor content on the fly to give them similar programmes to those it has adjudged they like.

At present, the face recognition software runs on a laptop PC, but the idea is that it eventually is integrated into the television (or set-top-box) itself.

To be honest, it will be a while before we see this kind of technology take off. For starters, while TV manufacturer can be universal and global (with minute alterations per region), the approach to television broadcasting can be radically different in each territory, and for it to take off television manufacturers would have to tailor ranges of sets to work specifically with that nation's TV infrastructure.

It's not impossible though. After all, it's not a million miles away from the TiVo system, just with a different input mechanism.

And as consumer electronics manufacturers will no doubt be putting front-facing cameras in their displays in the new future - thanks to the rise of video calling, Skype and the like, and the Smart/connected TV - It's really a software hurdle rather than a hardware one.

For now, we keenly await further developments.

What do you think? Do you feel comfortable with the idea that your TV is watching you as you watch it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...