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Diagrams from the Microsoft patent filing. (Credit: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

Sorry, kid, but you’ve got the arms of a 12-year-old, and you’re not watching the Spice Channel tonight.

That’s the idea floated by Microsoft in a patent filing made public this week, proposing to use a 3D depth camera (such as the one in its Kinect sensor for Xbox 360) to digitally measure the proportions of a person’s body and estimate age based on the data, such as head width to shoulder width, and torso length to overall height. The system could then automatically restrict access to television shows, movies and video games accordingly, using ratings for each type of content.

It might sound like science fiction, but it’s actually not a huge stretch, given the detailed skeletal tracking that Kinect already uses to let people control games.

As described in the patent application, the approach would give parents a new advantage over their tech-savvy kids, many of whom can easily circumvent existing parental controls. But more than that, the technology could work dynamically — detecting when a kid enters the room, for example, and switching to more appropriate content.

What about adults with short arms or other seemingly childlike proportions? Don’t worry, there would be an override for someone with an administrator password, and no doubt there would be an option to disable the technology from the outset.

Inventors listed on the patent application include Aaron Kornblum, a lawyer who works as director of security policy for Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business; John Clavin, an Xbox intellectual property and licensing manager; and Gaelle Vialle, who previously worked as a group manager for the Xbox Live entertainment business.

The application was originally submitted in March 2010, and made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office yesterday. It’s still awaiting approval as a patent.

As with most of these things, there’s no indication that Microsoft actually plans to implement the technology publicly anytime soon, but it does provide a sense for the types of things they’re thinking about inside those buildings over in Redmond.

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