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Roku TVs may soon have the ability to show you ads while your games are paused

A recently discovered Roku patent suggests that the streaming company is looking into ways to display ads on its smart TVs during periods of inactivity. This would include when a game has been paused for a certain amount of time.

The patent, spotted by tech newsletter Lowpass, states that Roku TVs are currently unable to display adds via third-party devices that are connected to the TV via HDMI. 

The tech in question seeks to address this by looking for extended breaks in audio/visual output (such as when you've had your games paused for a while) so as to not interrupt actual gameplay. This wouldn't be too dissimilar to how Xbox consoles display achievement splash screens when your system has been inactive for a while.

As it stands, Roku TVs - and indeed its lineup of streaming sticks - can only display ads natively via its screensaver feature. Currently, Roku OS (the Roku TV operating system) is inactive when one of its smart TVs is displaying HDMI output from a third-party device like a PS5, Xbox Series X or Nintendo Switch. The patent (which is still pending) is looking for a way to circumvent this.


If the patent is greenlit and Roku TVs do start implementing this feature, it tries to make clear that it would seek to display only relevant advertising. That said, it's clearly quite volatile tech should it be implemented poorly. There's every chance this ad system may not work as intended.

Imagine having an ad flash itself on your screen during a lengthy, engaging cutscene. Or one that loses you that clutch final round during a Tekken 8 ranked online session. It doesn't specify the amount of time that needs to pass for an ad to be displayed. It could be minutes or even less. 

If this patented ad system doesn't work as intended, it's easy to see regular gamers (or even folks who primarily watch content via streaming services) warn others away from purchasing Roku smart TVs. And even if it does work, many users will no doubt find ads being displayed over inactive games to be quite intrusive.

That being said, there's absolutely no guarantee Roku will implement this technology should the patent go forward. Even companies like Sony and Nintendo file patents for certain technologies and systems that never really come to fruition. If you own a Roku TV, then, this likely isn't something you'll have to worry about anytime soon.

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