Your TV is spying on you: Big Brother is coming

1984

Here are a few strange things I came across this week.

US company Verizon has applied for a patent  for a device that would allow a TV to monitor people in their living rooms, picking up sounds,  telling whether the occupants  are children or  adults, and whether they are having an argument. If it detected an argument, it might then should an advert for marriage counselling. If it detected the sound of gym equipment being used, it might show ads for fitness equipment or personal trainers.

The device would also be able to recognize the skin tone and guess the race of the person watching the TV. In the novel 1984, the government watched everybody through their telescreens in the name of Big Brother. If we thought Facebook and other computer applications were playing ‘big brother’ when they keep track of which websites we visit, so they can target ads to us, we haven’t seen anything yet.

Ellen DeGeneres told us Bic had a new line of “pens for women.” Seriously? The pens are supposedly designed to fit a ‘female hand,’ whatever that means.  They come in pink and mauve. I wonder who in the company thought this was a good idea. De Generes sends it up with a mock ad which is amusing.

A sixteen-year-old Norwegian kid downloaded an app onto his smart phone that mimicked the sounds made by dying rabbits. (The app was intended for people hunting foxes.) He and a friend thought it would be funny to put the phone in the middle of the road to see what happened. They did. A fox came, sniffed and nipped the phone, then picked it up in its mouth and made off with it. There’s a video here. The kid didn’t get his phone back.

If you stay on the page after the fox video, you can also see a video of an Albino Echidna, ( more or less an Australian hedgehog.) The commentary is in Swedish, but there’s an English explanation here .

Finally, a man  in Australia, was charged with cruelty to an animal (among other things) after he bit a police dog, which bit him back. The man had been arrested for breaching a restraining order, and began kicking the cage in the back of the police van. When police attempted to move him to another vehicle, he kicked and bit a police dog. The dog bit back, and the guy required stiches in his arm.

Does anybody have any strange news items they’ve come across? And how do you feel about  your TV set detecting your race, age gender, based on being able to recognize skin tones and voice types.  Is this going too far?

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