Big Brother Microsoft is watching. At least they will be as soon as the Xbox One hits retailers. Microsoft is looking to improve upon the original design of the Kinect, and in some pretty big ways. While some of these design decisions are actually kind of cool, most of them are being put into the Orwellian box of wonders due to their incredible ability to watch your every move.
But it doesn't just end there. That would be too simple! The Kinect 2 can do so much more than just watch you with it's unblinking terror eye. It can also listen in on you with an ear that never tires and it can even tell who it is listening to at any given moment. But we'll save that for later in the article. Let's start off with the Kinect 2's body tracking features.
There Is No Tricking The Kinect
It was very recently revealed that Microsoft had applied for a patent on their new Kinect. A patent that has more than a few people up in arms. The patent in question is for a technology used in the Kinect that lets it count how many people are in the room while watching a show or movie. If this count goes over a certain predetermined amount, the Xbox One would be able to stop the show and request that the extra people leave the room or you pay for a bigger license.
While I highly doubt even Microsoft would go through with this technology simply because they're already hurting enough as it is with all of these other claims of DRM and always online restrictions, I have given it some thought, and I've found that I really can't think of any good way to get around this restriction if it were to ever pop up in the console's life span. I'll give you the rundown on what I considered.
We're just a generation away from Our Friend, The Computer!
First of all, why not just cover up the Kinect camera with a piece of paper? Well, the problem there is the fact that the Kinect knows when it is being obstructed by something. If you put a piece of paper in front of it then it'll continually readjust itself and give you error messages saying there is some sort of problem and needs to be re-calibrated.
Next there's the idea of just taking a picture of yourself standing in your gaming room and just setting it in front of the Kinect. While that was my genius scheme at first, I realized there was a hole in my foolproof plan. A picture of a person has no heartbeat, and the Kinect 2 will know something is wrong when it doesn't detect one coming from the person it is viewing. Will it stop the video if this is the case? I don't know, but it could happen.
Finally, why not just point the Kinect at the wall and just ignore it? This seems like the most obvious idea, but then there's the problem that the Kinect would be sensing that no one was in the room watching the movie. While it is still too early to determine, if Microsoft were to go through with this new technology, they would probably have blocks put in place to stop the movie from progressing if the Kinect determined no one was watching it.
Wait, The Kinect Can Monitor Heartbeats?
Of all the things Microsoft showed off at their big reveal of the Xbox One, this is the only thing that actually excited me the least. The Kinect 2 can supposedly monitor people's heartbeats well enough to tell when it has been raised by strenuous activity from a game like Kinect Sports. Ignore that bit about Kinect Sports though because it doesn't matter. Microsoft could actually be putting an affordable heart monitoring device in everyone's homes.
Where is this thing, anyways?
While I can't even begin to put into words what that could mean for a lot of people, I can at least put a gaming spin on it. Next gen horror games that react to how your heart is reacting while you play. We've been talking about it for the better part of a decade but nobody has actually gotten around to it. With a mandatory device that does it automatically without the need to hook you up to any machines? There is no excuse not to do it now.
But a heart monitor is just the start of things. If this new Kinect is so advanced that it can monitor your heart from across the room, I have to wonder just what other amazing feats it can pull off. The modding community is going to be huge for this thing, and I just can't wait for that. Now that I've mentioned something cool about the new Kinect, let's get back to the tinfoil hat and paranoia side of things.
The Xbox One Is Always Listening... ALWAYS
This has to be the most serious thing the internet has been taking offense to when it comes to the Xbox One (not counting the possibility of always online and no used games) The Kinect 2 can hear you even when the console is powered down. This wasn't just claimed to be possible by the people on stage, but they actually showed it in action during the presentation itself by commanding the Xbox One to power on in front of the crowd.
You didn't do your mandatory exercises today! An Xbox agent will be by to punish you!
But it gets crazier than that. Not only did the Xbox One power on and load up the home screen, but it also logged onto the account of the person who gave the command. So not only is it listening for commands even while turned off, but it can tell the difference between you giving the command versus someone else in the room. It knows your voice, and it remembers you.
Now, why might people have a problem with this? I've already heard the argument that if you have nothing to hide then you shouldn't have a problem with this feature. To the people saying this, I have one request. Let me put a webcam in your bedroom that has a direct link to my computer. I promise not to watch you. Maybe. While it is crazy to think Microsoft might use these new tools to spy on people, crazier things have happened. As always, thank you for reading.