Laugh. Or else 

16 August 2009 tbs.pm/1088

Engadget: Sony’s laughter-tracking PS3 patent

You may have noticed recently that most digital cameras can now take a photo automatically when they detect when the person being photographed is smiling.

Sony in their infinite wisdom have now filed a patent that takes this concept a step further, namely getting their PlayStation 3 games console to monitor someone watching television and recording if/when the person happens to smile or laugh at something that they happen to be watching. (Or perhaps even if they have fallen asleep.)

When/if this method of monitoring is adopted by audience research organisations such as BARB, this data will obviously be fed back to television broadcasters so that they know how amusing (or otherwise) the 1000th showing of Animals Do the Funniest Things on ITV2 happens to be. This could be a good thing if it means less of the same.

And of course it could be used to assess in real time how entertaining a particular act on a variety show could be, meaning that in theory ITV could dispense with the likes of Simon Cowell as well as the concept of getting people to phone in with their choice of performer at 30p/call (or whatever). But we all know that won’t happen.

On the downside this could result in perfectly decent programming being binned by commercial television simply because it doesn’t provoke the required number of “belly laughs”, therefore if ITV had commissioned Gavin and Stacey it’s not hard to imagine it being pulled in preference for Animals do The Funniest Things on the basis of that alone.

Which is very bad news for comedy in general, because many new comedy series may be genuinely unfunny on their first showing/episode but have the potential to turn into something great.

Still this could be good news for the BBC because they could end up being the only UK broadcaster (plus perhaps Channel 4 if they still have it in them) that could continue to judge comedy on its long term development potential as opposed to its ability to provoke a reaction on its first showing.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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