Roku has filed a patent for your TV to detect when you're paused and play 'relevant ads'. Nope, no thank you, not for me I'm afraid

The pause button on a TV remote
(Image credit: Future)

Advertising seems to be everywhere. A necessary evil, perhaps, as our free time is gradually monetised in an effort to make those delicious bucks, pounds and Australian dollary-doos, and companies expect to, shock horror, make some cash from their users. However, if you thought you were safe from overt advertising while watching an ad-free streaming service or playing a game, Roku has different ideas. The company has filed a patent that would allow its TVs to detect when you're paused while using an HDMI connected device, and show you a lovely targeted advert.

The patent details several different methods of potentially detecting a "pause event" through an HDMI connected device, including using an onboard processor to identify a silent audio signal in combination with identical video frames that suggests the user is currently in an idle state (via Lowpass). However the pause or idle state is detected, multiple methods suggest that an ad could be selected based on the content of the previous frame, thereby cueing in advertising that's directly relevant to the content the user was previously viewing.

Roku has already spent a fair amount of time and effort attempting to monetise your idle time while using its streaming platforms, introducing the surprisingly popular Roku City screensaver and selling sponsorships to major brands to advertise on its various rolling landscapes.

However, it's difficult to imagine users reacting positively to the idea that your TV could interrupt your media content outside the confines of Roku's own streaming efforts, even if you happened to be paused. 

I can think of few things more irritating than pausing a console game, getting up to make myself a cup of tea (I am British, after all), and returning to find an advert that thought I wanted a cowboy hat because I was playing Red Dead Redemption 2. Nope, no thank you, try again please, I'll wait.

Of course, this is merely a patent filing, and companies regularly attempt to stay ahead of the game by floating all sorts of ideas that never make it into a consumer device. Advertising revenue is big bucks, however, and the company is far from the only one to be thinking of new ways to jump on as many ad revenue opportunities as possible.

From banks selling ad space on apps to streaming services like Amazon Prime adjusting its subscription tiers to show more advertising content to more users unless they cough up, maximising ad revenue seems to be a primary concern for all internet-based businesses.

Screen queens

(Image credit: Future)

Best gaming monitor: Pixel-perfect panels for your PC.
Best high refresh rate monitor: Screaming quick.
Best 4K monitor for gaming: When only high-res will do.
Best 4K TV for gaming: Big-screen 4K gaming.

That being said, injecting adverts into TV viewers idle time even when they're simply using the HDMI ports to use another device seems like a step too far.

Here's hoping this is another patent that never sees the light of day in our home devices. Everyone's got to make a buck somehow, of course, but this method in particular seems like a level of intrusion that goes slightly beyond the pale.

Leave my pause time alone, Roku. We all need a bit of breathing room sometimes, and I'd rather not spend it wondering whether I really do need a new hat.

Andy Edser
Hardware Writer

Andy built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 12, when IDE cables were a thing and high resolution wasn't. After spending over 15 years in the production industry overseeing a variety of live and recorded projects, he started writing his own PC hardware blog for a year in the hope that people might send him things. Sometimes they did.

Now working as a hardware writer for PC Gamer, Andy can be found quietly muttering to himself and drawing diagrams with his hands in thin air. It's best to leave him to it.