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Intel drops facial recognition from TV set-top box, and why cable needs to ‘get the net’


I haven’t had a cable TV subscription in a long time, and it’s not because I’m too good for TV. It’s because the internet is a much better delivery medium and as online entertainment models surge forward, cable companies have found themselves either unable or unwilling to adapt.

Pricing is through the roof, commercial breaks are increasingly intolerable and loud, and 30% of the channels users are forced to buy under cable subscriptions aren’t relevant or interesting.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been some innovations in cable TV (DVR etc.), but compared to watching TV online, a cable subscription still feels like ordering CDs from a mail-order catalog in 1995.

Intel, as well as many other companies, is currently looking to disrupt this space, but as the Wall Street Journal reports, Intel can expect a tough time negotiating rights and licensing deals for video content. But that will only be temporary, as a major shift in who controls the TV entertainment space is underway, and the new-school is winning.

If cable providers want to retain market share, they need to learn from the internet and introduce greater customization and user control. Offering select content online to cable subscribers does not fill this gap.

Old systems and licensing models don’t mesh well with the internet.

Intel is currently testing a new internet-based set-top box tricked out with customization features. The new hardware has been designed to stream recorded content from the cloud and give smart recommendations based on social media trends and user behavior.

For users like me, customization is important and is something that online systems like Netflix do well and ads to the list of areas in which cable falls flat on its face. I’m so accustomed to smartphones, tablets and almost every other digital interface including a keyboard to search content, TV remotes even feel limiting as a user.

Intel and other companies have recognized this need in the market, and are increasingly turning to biometrics to personalize these systems. Biometrics has long been associated with security systems, though customization and personlization applications are gaining lots of ground with consumers. Both voice and facial recognition are major drivers in this space.

That being said, a biometric feature Intel had long been planning for this system — facial recognition for user customization and targeted ads– has recently been taken off of the priority list. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the technology hasn’t worked reliably in low-light conditions and has also raised privacy concerns.

Microsoft’s anticipated Xbox One will feature facial recognition for targeting ads through its integrated Kinect camera.  In addition, the system is said to accommodate speech recognition to control the device.

Google is launching a new feature for realtime insights improving the content experience for users, using a combination of facial recognition and the search giant’s Knowledge Graph.

The new feature is included in the Google Play Movies & TV app, and will show info cards providing facts related to actors and movies being watched on an Android tablet.

As we reported in March, Panasonic has introduced a new range of LED and plasma TVs with speech and facial recognition capabilities to the Australian market.

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