By Jonathan M. Gitlin | Published: October 20, 2008 - 06:25AM CT
Back in 2004 Microsoft applied for a patent for real-time censoring of audio streams, and now the USPTO has granted that patent.
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As PC gamers have known for a long time, and Xbox gamers have known for a while, playing against other humans online is a much more enjoyable experience than beating a computer. Thanks to the advent of teamspeak, you can game with others as if they were in your living room, without having to worry about them knocking their drinks over and staining the carpet. However, the somewhat anonymous nature of the internet means you also encounter individuals who lack the sort of internal filter that prevents most of us from blurting out streams of profanity that would make Mr. Tourette blush.
More often than not, the profanasaurus on the other end of the mike is a schoolboy still at the age where yelling random insults at strangers seems amusing, but it only takes one moron to spoil a good time. The patent involves real-time (or batch) analysis of an audio stream that can recognize inappropriate language based on phonemes, and then overwrite objectionable words with bleeps, other noises, or silence.
But online gaming isn't the only area where this technology could show up. TV networks, fearing hefty FCC fines, would be able to broadcast live without fear of exposing the sheltered ears of their audience to a (possibly life altering) outburst or expletive. No more seven-second delay with an editor's finger hovering over the bleep button, no more being raked over the coals by the Parents Television Council, no more f***s, s***s, or m************* c********* slipping into the next award show.
I can also envisage a more sinister role, however, regardless of one's opinion on whether or not those seven words ought to be allowed to be said on television. Imagine the same system applied to digital telephony, then think how valuable such a system might be to an authoritarian regime. As we've seen to good effect in Burma and elsewhere, the ubiquity of cell phones has been a good thing for dissidents who need to get their message out or organize themselves. The Great Firewall of China already blocks objectionable web content from reaching Chinese computers; what's to stop cell phones from censoring anti-government conversations too?
Thanks to the good Doctor for this one
Goddamnit, I hate having to put up loads of articles aboutr censorship, but they keep coming in. Like that giant firewall they're installing in Australia.
But yeah, no more 13 year olds just dropping the f-bomb for no reason (I know its for no reason, whenever I delve into Halo on Xbox Live, my wee cousin always suggest swearing like a sailor for no real reason), but the censorship...
You know, I'm more worried about this big Aussie wall, I'll just leave this here.