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Kinect lets you interact with ads, may spy on your mood

Starting this fall, Xbox Kinect owners won't just use the motion control device to slice virtual fruit or turn their living room into a dance floor. They will use it to answer questions during a Toyota advertisement or cast their vote during an Axe advertisement.Microsoft on Thursday revealed new details about its "NUads," which are coming to Xbox Live this fall. NUads a
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Xbox Live NUads in action. Here's your chance to vote on whetherMicrosoft

Starting this fall, Xbox Kinect owners won't just use the motion control device to slice virtual fruit or turn their living room into a dance floor. They will use it to answer questions during a Toyota advertisement or cast their vote during an Axe advertisement.

Microsoft on Thursday revealed new details about its "NUads," which are coming to Xbox Live this fall. NUads are interactive advertisements that put the Kinect's motion-sensing and voice-detecting abilities to work.  (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBCUniversal.)

Whether this sounds like a good thing to you, depends on how you feel about advertisements in general. If you're an advertiser — this could mean a more interactive way to connect with your customers. If you're a advertisement-wary gamer — you're probably rolling your eyes at this potential intrusion.

Microsoft says its first NUads will allow Toyota to asks viewers what they would like to see reinvented. Viewers can then respond using Kinect's voice and gesture reading abilities. A NUad from the Axe/Lynx body spray brand will ask viewers to weigh in on the, uh, less-than-progressive question — Should the previously male-oriented scent be given to "girls"?

But here, see for yourself:


If this bothers you, then hold onto your hat. According to a June 7 patent application, Microsoft is looking to help advertisers target their promotions based on your emotions ... and they want to use the Kinect camera — among other methods — to detect your mood.

The application says this "computer system" they envision would allow advertisers to specify the emotional state of the people they intend to target.

"Online activities for users are obtained and processed to assign emotional states to the users," reads the application. "An advertisement engine selects advertisements that are emotionally compatible based on the assigned emotional states and the desired emotional states provided by the advertisers."

The emotional states of would-be advertisees will be determined in several ways (browsing behavior, search queries, etc.). But the most interesting (disturbing?) of them is through the Kinect's ability to, well, watch you, The application reads:

...voice and gestures from the computing device, e.g., Microsoft Kinect, may be analyzed for speech patterns, body movement, and facial expression to determine whether the user is smiling, frowning, screaming, etc. If the user on the videos or images from the computing device, e.g., Microsoft Kinect, is screaming, the advertisement engine may assign a negative emotional state, such as, upset, to the user. If the user on the videos or images from the computing device, e.g., Microsoft Kinect, is pacing back and forth, the advertisement engine may assign a negative emotional state, such as, worried, to the user. 

Of course, patent applications are one thing. Real-world applications are another. Certainly there would be privacy hell to pay when/if this should ever become a reality. 

Still, I don't know about you, but I might just start putting a blanket over my all-seeing Kinect when I'm not busy slicing virtual fruit.

— Via Venture Beat, The Atlantic

Winda Benedetti writes about video games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.