Big brother eyes the movie goer

The MPAA is not stopping at watching what’s on your personal computer. The movie industry is experimenting with new technologies that would spy on patrons of movie theaters.

Wired News reports that Trakstar, a Florida-based technology firm, is now demonstrating what they claim is a solution to in-theater movie bootlegging. The technology is being tested at the University of Southern California’s Entertainment Technology Center.

The company’s anti-piracy offering comprises two technologies. The first, PirateEye, detects camcorders and pinhole cameras in the act of recording movies off the big screen. The remote-controlled device looks like a mechanical replica of Darth Vader’s head. Perched on a stand directly below the movie screen at the front of the theater, the small black box shoots brief, almost invisible pulses of light at the audience.

Offending camera lenses bounce back a telltale reflection that the device senses and then records on a digital snapshot captured with a built-in digital camera of its own. If the machine spots a suspected pirating camcorder in the audience, it then sends out an automated alarm to in-theater security or law enforcement.

The second part of Trakstar’s system is a forensic audio-watermarking technology called TVS. The TVS device sits between the theater’s cinema processor and audio-amplification unit, and generates inaudible sonic tags that can later be used as evidence to trace the date, time and theater at which a pirated file originated.

The watermarks can be unlocked and read with the help of proprietary software keys. The system relies on multiple forms of security, including wireless GPS sensors that trigger the unit to flush the watermarking algorithm from its memory if the TVS box is moved from its designated location.

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