After its failed Google TV venture, Intel is reportedly working on a set-top box for a new TV service that would allow it to broadcast targeted ads based on facial recognition. The technology will apparently stop short of identifying individuals, but could provide information such as age and gender that would be valuable to marketers. Reuters' sources say that the company is in negotiations with content providers for selective licensing of networks and shows, though the providers are predictably reluctant to allow their cable packages to be broken up into less expensive pieces. The sources say that Intel is pushing to launch the service before the end of this year.

"They've told us the technology is going to be so much more interactive with ads that you can make more money. But it's just a little unproven."

However, it's said that Intel believes its hardware's ability to gather data on consumers would represent a major boon for cable providers, who currently have to rely on outmoded Nielsen ratings information from a limited sample of the US population. The sources also say that Intel's box would be able to provide more secure DRM for streamed content. It all sounds like a hard sell to consumers, but all bets could be off if Intel can convince providers to let it sell subscriptions at a significant discount.