Imagine, if you will, that you are sitting around watching TV, and the sudden urge to grab a snack overtakes you. You try desperately to ignore it because you can't find the remote control, and the show you are watching is the single most gripping piece of entertainment you've ever witnessed. Hunger overtakes you, and you proceed to walk away and go to the kitchen. As you get up and leave, the TV pauses on its own. This is the idea behind new startup PredictGaze.

The vision behind PredictGaze is certainly exciting, but hardware that can detect that you are no longer watching TV must be expensive, right? You'd think so, but the developers have shown off this technology working with a standard webcam. In fact, for its demo, the team uses the back-facing camera of an iPad to make everything work.

According to the people behind PredictGaze, a standard VGA camera can work from up to four feet (1.2 meters) away. By going to an extremely cheap 4-megapixel camera, it can detect faces from 12 feet (3.7 meters) away.

Pausing the TV is not the only thing PredictGaze can do. The team also show an iPad, logged onto Facebook. It can detect the face of the person using the Facebook account, and if they hand the iPad to another person, it will realize that this is not the person who logged on, and it will automatically darken the screen to hide private information.

The company has some grand ideas for the future. PredictGaze proposes the possibility of its software detecting the age of people in a room. Using this, it could tell that a person is under a certain age and block inappropriate content on the TV. The developers are looking at ways of using eye, emotion, gender, and gesture tracking as well. Using something like emotion detection, developers could receive reports about what parts of their application caused users to smile, and what other emotions users experienced.

PredictGaze's website mentions using its technology for playing mobile games on devices with front-facing cameras. This would create a Microsoft Kinect-like gaming experience on the go.

For those concerned with privacy, PredictGaze says that all image processing is done locally, so no one is sitting in a lab somewhere watching you enjoy your favorite television shows. Even the devices themselves only store data points, and not actual images.

The video below demonstrates PredictGaze being used to pause a TV when no one is watching.

Source: PredictGaze via Gigaom