The Alarming Nature of The Xbox One's Kinect Requirement and Usage
I get excited about trying out new gadgets as much as anyone else, but the new Kinect is one brand spanking new piece of technology I would much rather pretend doesn't exist. The concept of accurate and in-depth body tracking is intriguing, but is having this type of technology in the living room and completely open for Microsoft to track really a wise decision?
Before you tell me to get my tinfoil hat, really consider how much you value your privacy. Anyone should have concerns over a major corporation having a live feed inside their home that tracks how many people are in a room, what their names and voices sound like, their heart rate, their movement, and their emotional reactions.
If you think this level of tracking is only going to be used in video games, think again.
Microsoft have applied for a patent that essentially sets television advertisements and the Kinect up to hold hands and integrate the Kinect camera into the advertising process. For example, some ads may request that users hold up a particular product for the camera to scan and reward achievements to the viewer's account.
The above is a bit of a side bar to the main topic, but is a sign that everything you do will be watched, cataloged, and added to metrics data -- as long as your Xbox One is on.
Another sign of the amount of attention you and your living room will be paid is the patent filed last year for a per-view licensing system for set-top boxes and digital displays. With this type of technology in use, the Xbox One will be able to tell how many are people are in a room while you are viewing a particular program and request an additional viewing license (fee) in order for you-plus-whoever-else to continue watching should you surpass the allowed viewer amount for the initial viewing license. Really.
The concept of "privacy of your living room" will be a thing of the past.
Now this is a scary thought.
With the eye of the ever-vigilant Kinect seeing over your living room, Microsoft (and by extension advertising companies) will be able to accurately track your emotions during gaming or watching a movie.
It will be able to tell exactly who you are, what your voice sounds like, and the types of games you like to play and shows you like to watch.
When you go to a friend's house, who also happens to have an Xbox One, it will know you are there instead of at home.
As a person who values my privacy and believes corporations have no place in the home outside of product or service provision, this all is very alarming. You expect to be tracked on the internet, you even expect to be tracked a bit in public -- but you should never expect to be tracked at home, sitting in front of the television.
There's a very clear line between expecting something and accepting something. Just because you expect Microsoft to go all-out with the the Kinect's tracking, should you accept it? Should you really accept giving up our privacy for the sake of entertainment?
The Kinect Requirement and Consumer Rights
It's been revealed that the Xbox One requires the Kinect to function, but we have yet to see what (if any) of its features can be toggled on or off. Being able to toggle some auxiliary features off while watching television or playing games would bring a huge sigh of relief and from the many others worried about their privacy when using the device, but just how much flexibility will they allow?
The patents brought up earlier in this article are heavily advertiser-friendly. Considering Microsoft's overall policies and ad-pumping even on Xbox Live Gold, it's almost unimaginable that they would not want to take full advantage of the mentioned opportunities. The new console's still-fuzzy but potentially devastating used games policy may just be a sign as to how far they are willing to push the envelope to milk the consumer.
While you and your friends in the gaming community may try to fight against the writing on the wall, the real question of the Xbox One's success is going to come down to the mainstream market.
Average consumers who buy every release of their favorite sports title, every year. Who support invasive DRM practices because they simply do not care. These are going to be the people the Xbox One is going to aim for, with pleasure. They are the majority and are the least likely to even utter the words "consumer rights".
If the average consumer is just as complacent with being watched in their own home as they are with being nickel and dimed, the future of gaming - from a core gamer's perspective - is very bleak. Everything will come down to how badly Microsoft wants to play Big Brother.