The US state of Colorado played host to an intriguing technology event this week, which showed off a new gadget that has the potential to spy on people watching TV.

At CableLabs' Innovation Showcase, PrimeSense was informally voted as the best new product at the event, something that has got the web all in a worry due to its potential privacy issues.

PrimeSense is a gadget that allows your TV, via a cable box, see just who is watching it.

On the CableFax website, it is described as something that: "lets digital devices see a 3D view of the world. In other words, that cable set-top box will know whether three people are sitting on the sofa watching TV and how many are adults vs children."

But before we all go crazy about invasion of privacy, it has to be noted that the technology isn't actually marketed as a 'TV spying device', and there are no plans from set-top box operators to use it as such.

This hasn't stopped the internet worrying, however, with a lone comment on the CableFax website stating: "PrimeSense has another thing coming if they think putting cameras in set top boxes to watch people in their homes is going to be well received. Talk about invasion of privacy!"

And then there's a poster on Slash Dot who is also worried about the privacy implications, saying that: "Cable set-top boxes will know whether three people are sitting on the sofa watching TV and how many are adults vs. children. Do we really need cable and/or video service operators knowing this?"

Thermal imaging chip

On PrimeSense's website, the company markets the device, however, as something that could potentially "enable virtual multi-touch no matter where you are, or go beyond with natural hand gestures, providing intuitive menu-driven interactions without the need for a keyboard or mouse in your living room environment."

The technology works "via a chip that resides in a camera that plugs into the STB. The images look more like something from thermal imaging."

While there are privacy issues over it being able to 'see' people in its vicinity, the makers of PrimeSense have pointed out some interesting non-sinister applications for the device, which shows that the gadget isn't neccessarily destined for advertising purposes.

It notes that it could be used in games applications, with the website stating: "Making video games more immersive and fun to play by allowing users to play naturally using body movements and gestures."

Put it into this context and it sounds like another Project Natal. Whatever PrimeSense ends up becoming, the technology will certainly be one to look out for. That is if it doesn't look out for you first.

Via Slash Dot