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Microsoft wants Xbox 'achievements' for watching ads

Achievement unlocked: a patent application from Microsoft suggests that the company wants to "reward" you for your TV habits.

Xbox Achievements awards points to gamers for a variety of in-game activities — completing levels or finding secrets hidden within the game, for example.

Figure 1 from US Patent Application 20130125161, showing "a non-limiting example of linear video content viewing environment". (Credit: Microsoft/USTPO)

They're a curious beast, because they have zero value: you can't spend them for extra content or anything like that. They literally exist simply as bragging rights, where you can compare your score to other gamers.

Now, Microsoft wants to take achievements past the game. A US patent application, spotted by Polygon, lays out the framework for "awards and achievements across TV ecosystem".

Specifically, Microsoft wants to set out "a user-viewing goal detailing a specific linear video content viewing behaviour [sic] of the user", then provide "an award to the user if the user-specific reports collectively indicate the user-viewing goal is reached by the user".

Or in plain speech, you'll score achievements for watching video content.

Microsoft specifically mentions advertising as one of these goals:

... by tying the awards and achievements to particular items of video or advertising content, viewers may be encouraged to increase their viewership of the content, thus increasing advertising opportunities.

The patent doesn't mention a specific product that Microsoft wants to tie the system to, nor how the monitoring of the users "video viewing behaviour" will occur. However, Figure 1 of the application clearly shows an Xbox 360 and Kinect set-up.

Given the heavy focus of the Xbox One on TV and TV viewing and the always-on nature of the Kinect 2 as a required component of the Xbox One, it's not a big stretch to assume that some sort of Kinect-based monitoring might we be part of the deal.

In fact, given that the application specifically mentions that awards could be tied to "the user performing a specific action while watching the linear video content", then the Kinect may well be the most apt device to confirm that the said action was performed.

Some of the other examples of goals that Microsoft gives in the application includes watching advertisements, as mentioned above, but also viewing a single episode of "linear video content", or even all the episodes in a series of videos.

As least the achievement awards might have a little more substance this time. While the patent does suggest that rewards might be "an addition to a viewer score or an update to an avatar", it does also allow that the "award may be physical, such as coupons for an advertised product or service, or an actual product".