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Microsoft Gets Patent on Broadcast Censorship Solution

On-line gamers using profanity in audio chat sessions may have their act cleaned up if Microsoft has anything to say about it.

On Oct. 14, Microsoft was issued a patent for an Automatic Censorship of Audio Data for Broadcast, according to the United States Patent Office. The new audio filter goes beyond the "bleep" by actually replacing objectionable words with generally acceptable words or reducing the "undesired speech" so that it is "no longer perceivable by a listening audience," according to the patent.

A statement in the patent described the point of the invention, which promises to cut the human censor out of the loop in broadcast media.

"Humans are remarkably adept at identifying words and phrases that are considered unacceptable. However, for certain types of broadcasts, it would be preferable to employ a more automated approach that avoids the need to pay for or provide a human censor to monitor the broadcast…."

The "Big Brother" ramifications of this invention have the on-line reader community up in arms. One comment noted that there's no beep to tell listeners that the censorship occurred.

The patent's description points to audio chat in online games as a possible use for the censorship solution. It notes the difficulty of censoring chats "in massive multiplayer games."

Whether or not Microsoft will use the new audio censorship technology for any specific applications is not yet clear.

Matt Rosoff, Microsoft's lead analyst, consumer products, corporate news, noted in an e-mail that Damon Danieli, the patent applicant, works for Microsoft Research and that the patent was part of a general research program and had nothing to do with a specific product.

"I imagine it could be used during live broadcasts to censor language that the broadcaster doesn't want to be heard," he stated. "The most obvious application would be a Webcast, so I could imagine Microsoft incorporating this technology into the Windows Media platform."

For more information on the censorship patent, go here.

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

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