A new set of specifications that surfaced on the US Patent and Trademark Office’s online database last week reveals that Samsung is taking another shot at applying eye-tracking technology to TVs after its failed attempt to develop a gaze-aware remote, and on a much grander scale. If its efforts bear fruit this time, watching video could get a lot more comfortable.
The software detailed in the filing apparently requires very little setup, automatically learning what it needs to know about the preferences of the viewer through the front-facing camera on their Samsung TV. That includes everything from the distance at which they’re watching to the distance between their eyes and whether or not they’re wearing glasses.
Those parameters are transmitted to a backend cloud service where a customized usage profile is created and then filled over time with data about their viewing habits. After enough information has been gathered, the system is able to identify situations that require adjusting the settings with enough accuracy to safely try and make the necessary tweaks on its own.
If, for example, the software sees that your eyes are open wider than normal, the brightness of the display will be increased to let you see your show better. And if you’re squinting when the camera detects glare coming from your windows, the brightness will be decreased accordingly. There are also algorithms for identifying whether you’re reading a piece of text – like, say, an ad – as fast as you should be able to.
Where that particular functionality could come even handier than on smart TVs is mobile devices, which Samsung is also targeting with the technology. After all, the smaller the screen, the most vulnerable it is to glare and all the other factors that can making viewing a video or reading an article unnecessarily difficult.
But the convenience of having your settings automatically adjusted for your specific preferences will come at a price. Samsung indicates in its filing that its software will need to continuously track a user in order to gain a proper understanding of their viewing habits, data that ends up transmitted to the cloud in its entirety.
That’s especially alarming given that the system will also collect basic demographic data such as your race and age to identify whether you’re in some special risk of eyesight problems. Samsung will need to give users the option to determine exactly what features to enable and disable if it wants the software to ever find use once it’s released.