According to Slate Magazine:

Verizon Files Patent for Creepy Device To Watch You While You Watch TV


The company has filed a patent, published last week, for a system designed to be used in the home to target advertisements at people. Using a combination of image and audio sensors, it would detect actions in your living room while you were watching TV. These sensors, deploying facial and profile recognition, would pick up “physical attributes” like skin color, facial features, and even hair length, and also detect “voice attributes” to help determine the tone of your voice, your accent, and the language you speak. Inanimate objects aren’t off-limits—the technology could also spot beer cans and wall art.

  • Oh god! It's 1984 all over again.
    – Ian
    Dec 17, 2012 at 9:53
  • Didn't Microsoft apply for similar kind of patents to use in computer devices?
    – vartec
    Dec 18, 2012 at 13:11
  • Isn't this offtopic now that SE opened Ask Patents?
    – user5341
    Dec 18, 2012 at 18:33

1 Answer 1


Yes. As directly referenced in the article, there is a patent that was granted in November:

The granting of a US patent does not mean that:

  • The invention exists as a physical technology.
  • That Verizon have any plans to build such a technology.
  • That no-one else will come forward with prior art that has been overlooked.

[Reference: Basic understanding of patents, and the possible lack of plans is mentioned in the original article]

  • But the patent has to explain how it would work. Section 20 has "the detection facility is implemented by a detection device comprising at least one of a depth sensor, an image sensor, an audio sensor, and a thermal sensor". Common devices. Then earlier they mention facial recognition and checking if you use a tablet or phone (no biggie -- we already cross-track people). The patent is the idea of using that for Ads. Oddly, prior art is the movie "Minority Report". Jun 13, 2021 at 6:28
  • @OwenReynolds: Not sure of your point, sorry. Yes, they need a verbal description of how it might work; theoretically enough for someone "skilled in the art" to produce it. They don't need to have actually built it. They don't need to have plans to build it. Minority Report (2002) may have imagined such a device (Only Forward in 1994 is an earlier example), but it didn't describe how to build it, so it questionable that it is prior art.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 13, 2021 at 6:43
  • I'm saying the description as a "device" in the original headline is very misleading. The patent says "you know how we have all these sensors, which will probably get better and better? My idea is to use them for ads". It's a software patent, where the software is a vague idea. I'm also seeing it was abandoned (but not when). Jun 13, 2021 at 14:50
  • @OwenReynolds: the original title and headline say patent for a device. That is accurate. I already clarify that doesnt prove it exists. I am not seeing anything that needs correcting.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 13, 2021 at 22:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .