Kinect, Your Privacy, And The Future
Kinect and Privacy
Not only does Kinect recognize its users, but it can also see in the dark thanks to an active infrared camera. Through a combination of its color and IR sensors, Kinect detects minute changes in flesh tones, which translate to heart rates.
Using advanced software models, the Xbox One understands the orientation of your body, as well as the force exerted on different muscle groups. This feature is heavily utilized by the Xbox Fitness online service (opens in new tab), which takes popular fitness videos and makes them interactive. Now that's insanity.
You're no longer giving the console inputs through just its controller. Now the machine is gathering information passively expressed by you. Unsettling? Maybe. But this is the sort of thing from science fiction movies, and it has to start somewhere. What'll guide acceptance of this sort of technology is how corporations manage the data they're seeing. In a time where behavioral patterns are peddled for cash to the highest bidder, and we distrust those monitoring us, success isn't going to be easy.
For its part, Microsoft updated its Xbox privacy statement with new entries for Kinect. It reads:
Kinect creates a virtual gaming environment where your body motions and voice can be used to control gameplay and to navigate through the Service. Kinect uses an infrared sensor, camera, and microphone to make control possible.The camera can be used to sign you in. To do so, it measures distances between key points on your face to create a numeric value that represents only you. No one could look at the numbers and know they represent you. This authentication information stays on the console and is not shared with anyone.You control what happens to photographs taken during gameplay and whether voice commands are captured for analysis. You can turn Kinect off at any time.When Kinect is used with certain games and apps, your skeletal movements can be used to estimate exercise stats. You can decide how your stats are managed and whether they are shared.Some game titles may take advantage of a new Xbox capability called expressions. This feature allows you to use your defined facial expressions to control or influence a game. This data does not identify you, stays on the console and is destroyed once your session ends.
Microsoft made a difficult, cost-adding choice to include the Kinect with every Xbox One. It's likely the biggest contributor to the $100 premium over Sony's PS4. That was a very risky move considering the price sensitivity of gamers during the holiday season.
But the age-old challenge presented by console peripherals is that, unless a feature is universal, developers won't consider support a priority. The original Kinect didn't fail in this regard, but any developer peddling a game dependent on the camera accessory knew its customer base was markedly smaller. All things considered, though, I believe that Microsoft made the right call. It was the only way to ensure developers considered Kinect for every game they made. Ultimately, the Xbox One has a greater opportunity to move the dial on future-looking interaction with the console compared to Sony's PS4 as a result.