A new patent granted to Matthew Jarman of Salt Lake City purports to offer personal TV censorship capabilities, enabling users to block out offensive words or terms used in video programming or, if the particular program proves unmutable, in some cases blocking an entire program based on its content. Even better, these preferences would be configurable on a user-by-user basis, so children wouldn’t have to hear expletives and explicit terms on television, and parents wouldn’t have to hear words like “Barney” or “Britney Spears.”
The technology is built on a processor and digital video recording systems, although it wouldn’t necessarily require a computer to be implemented. The system would work, in part, by analyzing the close captioning stream accompanying many television broadcasts. If a barred word or term is detected, the system could block the program entirely or, in some cases, mute the particular word in the video’s audio content. (Although it’s not clear how the system would account for delays in close captioning, particularly in live telecasts like news programming—which often also include amusing typos.) The patent also accounts for terms which have multiple meanings and homophones (e.g., “ass” meaning a donkey or “ass” indicating a political commentator). The system also allows for terms to be barred based on other characteristics: for instance, “Barney” in conjunction with “dinosaur” might be bad, but “Barney” on conjunction with “Andy Griffith” or “Homer Simpson” might be acceptable.
There’s no telling if products based on this patent will ever make it to market—close captioning data may just not be reliable enough for even the best system to meet consumer expectations—but it would certainly add a degree of control over television, video programming, and even streamed video that many parents would appreciate.
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