Disney’s Plans to Introduce Automatic Age and Gender Detection to Video Games

In an age where Kinect and PlayStation Eye/Move are encouraging less traditional interaction with video game consoles and cameras are a mainstay in virtual everything, let alone most mobile devices, one man at Disney Interactive sees video game systems moving even further from the path of the familiar and letting the console games make their own decisions based on — you guessed it — physical appearance.

Both ‘System and method for number of players determined using facial recognition’ (US Patent Application 20120214585) and ‘Gender and age based gameplay through face perception’ (US Patent Application 20120214584) list Phillippe Paquet as the sole inventor and offer to leverage existing technology in interesting ways.

The patent application titles pretty much describe the concepts and, to be honest, conceptual is mostly what these appear to be at this time. Though the technology is there, as Disney’s own Imagineers have demonstrated the capability of identifying and tracking individuals in a crowd, the implementations and practical applications seem to be lacking.

In short, Paquet envisions video game consoles (or virtually any device, including vehicle simulators) as being able to identify the number of participants, distinguishing active ones from spectators, as well as the approximate ages and genders of the game. Furthermore, he anticipates gameplay will change automatically, catering to what the system learns of its user. While a fascinating prospect, this would encourage locking players into stereotypical gender roles which could be a problem — assuming the gender of the player is 100% accurate. Even the example of using age to determine difficulty is questionable since skillsets — particularly when it comes to video games — are very much subjective to the individual rather than the number of growth rings inside their bodies.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t too long ago that Face.com (now owned by Facebook) had developed significant facial recognition software which was even able to attempt to determine an individual’s age. Thus it would appear that Disney’s main concern is simply to cover the uncharted area should it seem like it could become a reality. As a final bullet point of interest, the patent applications were filed about a month before Face.com revealed its age-identification technology to the public.

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