Intel Drops Facial Recognition From TV Plans for Now
Intel's upcoming TV service will record a massive amount of content and store it in the cloud, but it won't include a camera that will be peering back at the viewer.
Intel officials plan to begin selling a set-top box and services later this year that will let users receive live and recorded programming over the Internet, the latest move by a growing number of tech vendors that are looking for ways of leveraging the Web to improve people's TV viewing experience.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Erik Huggers, vice president and general manager of Intel Media, gave more detail on what the giant chip maker is planning with this initiative. One aspect that won't be included—at least for now—is a camera with facial-recognition capabilities that would look back at the faces in the room watching the television.
The idea was that the camera, through software, could recognize the faces of the viewers, and personalize the programming and ads based on who was watching. The idea of the camera looking into the room and seeing and recording who was watching what content sparked some controversy from people who worried about the data being collected and an invasion of privacy.
Huggers told The Wall Street Journal that the camera and its facial-recognition software was postponed for now, not only over privacy concerns but also because the technology did not work well in the low lighting that is found in many TV rooms.
However, viewers will have a massive amount of content to choose from, according to Huggers. Intel is planning for the service to record every piece of programming aired—locally, nationally and internationally—and to store the content in servers for at least three days. Users will be able to access the content via the Intel-powered set-top box or other devices through the cloud, without having to record the programs, and if they enter into a program in the middle, they can rewind it to the beginning.
Intel reportedly is running tests of the service with about 2,500 employees in California, Oregon and Arizona, and officials have said they plan to begin rolling it out commercially later this year.
Speculation about Intel's interest in Internet TV arose last year, and executives officially announced the idea in February. The goal of the TV initiative is to enable consumers—who are becoming accustomed to getting online content when and where they want it, rather than having to watch it on a schedule—to have the freedom to order and pay for whatever shows they want, and not for content and channels they don't want, according to Intel officials.
Intel's efforts will put it into competition not only with other tech vendors like Apple, Google and Sony, which also have investigated ideas for content delivery over the Internet, but also with established cable and satellite media companies, including Dish, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable.
A key to any plan is the content that will be available on these networks. Established media companies reportedly have been pressuring cable channels in hopes of keeping them from signing contracts with Intel and others, but Intel officials have said they are confident they will have signed the necessary licenses that will ensure they have the content in place when they start selling the set-top boxes later this year.