Oh god, why?


Tired of ads bloating your TV? We have some bad news. Roku, the kings of turning your idiot box into a smart one, is apparently developing a way to show you ads on its TVs even when you're not using one of its streaming apps, Lowpass reports.

That's right: whether you're using your gaming console or watching cable, this potential system could plaster an ad on top of whatever you're using your Roku TV to look at — so long as it's hooked up with an HDMI cable.

According to a patent application filed in August and published in November, the tech would shove ads onto your screen whenever it detects a break in activity. Pause your game or movie, for example, and the Roku TV would seize the moment to overlay a "relevant ad."

Should this actually be implemented, Roku will have finally conquered one of its major "blind spots," as Lowpass puts it: until now, its TVs haven't been able to "see" what you're doing on your HDMI devices.

No Breaks

Does this all sound invasive? Wait till you hear how the Roku system sniffs out your pauses. As detailed in the patent, Roku wants to directly monitor the video signal being sent from your Blu-ray player or what-have-you into a Roku TV.

Things like a static frame or a period of no audio would tell the system if the video feed is paused. It could also potentially look for a pause symbol on the screen. If your TV uses HDMI-CEC, a system that allows HDMI devices to be controlled by one remote, it could even detect when you hit the pause button.

As for the "relevant ad" part of the equation, the Roku TV would leverage widely used content recognition technology to identify what's onscreen in, say, a movie you're watching.

For example, once it detects the movie you're watching and the actors involved, it could also pick out metadata that "may correspond to a champagne bottle and mountain scenery," the patent reads, per Lowpass. Then "the relevant ads may include the famous actor, a type of champagne, vacation opportunities that include the mountain scenery recognized."

And boom, a targeted ad is remorselessly delivered straight to your screen and your unwitting eyeballs, whether you like it or not.

Patently Ridiculous

This is pretty galling stuff. Still, as bad as it sounds, it's not that unusual as far as corporate patents go.

Huge companies will often file patents for outlandish concepts — like that one Sony filed that would have customers yell a brand's name to skip ads — that they may not intend to use, simply as a way of ensuring their competition can't leverage those ideas in the future.

On the other hand, we wouldn't put it past Roku — or any big tech company — to actually implement something as invasive as this.

As Lowpass notes, Roku is pretty greedy when it comes to advertising. Last year, it allowed big brands to buy ad slots that show on its iconic Roku City screensaver. Who's to say it won't stop there?

More on TVs: Company Giving Away TVs With Second Screen That Shows Constant Ads

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