The Ultimate DRM?
Sony has patented a futuristic device that can identify players by scanning their fingerprints, biometric data, voice pattern and even DNA during "normal operation;" built directly into handsets, controllers and even PC mice.
This has major applications for targeted in-game and dashboard advertising, but could it also be the future of DRM?
The patent, found by PlayStation Lifestyle, suggests that Sony are looking into the issue of account registration across multiple consumer electronic devices such as televisions, mobile phones, tablets and consoles. Specifically, it bemoans the fact that it's difficult to verify that a primary account-holder is using the device in question, which apparently poses problems for both security and relevant advertising - not to mention convenience for the end user.
"Typically, the user is asked to provide information when registering the device or when signing up for an online service. Information can also be obtained by monitoring device use. For example, an online game provider can monitor which games are accessed by a particular device registered to a known user. However, many consumer electronic devices, such as video game consoles, often have multiple users, e.g., members of the same family. Unfortunately, currently existing technology only allows content providers to track the device and cannot distinguish among different users of a device."
"Thus, there is a need in the art, for methods and apparatus that overcome the above disadvantages."
To address this 'problem,' Sony's patent describes a multi-sensory device that automatically identifies users/players and signs them into their respective accounts.
"Examples of suitable biometric sensors include fingerprint sensors, hand sensors, face recognition systems, iris scanners retinal scanners, voice pattern analyzers, and DNA analyzers. The biometric sensor senses a user biometric during normal operation of the device by the user. In certain embodiments of the invention a user identification unit incorporated into a control module of the device."
The implications are, of course, that devices and games will only work for their registered user, thus effectively providing the most watertight DRM solution yet. These sensors would likely be built directly into the phone handset, peripheral or device in question. Applications would also include increased security for end users, theft deterrence and - of course - specifically targeted adverts.
As always, remember that patents don't mean products, and companies frequently only patent ideas to deny them to competitors. The idea of Biometric data - DNA even - being stored by major companies is more than a little terrifying, not to mention invasive. Just imagine the EULA.