Microsoft’s Kinect, the motion-sensing peripheral for Xbox 360, has met with strong acclaim since its debut last week. But could Kinect be only the first step in a wider product rollout from Microsoft?
Terry Lavender of The Vancouver Observer has a theory about where Kinect-style technology could lead Microsoft. Gaming, he says, is for kids — what other applications could Kinect technology have? And is it something we’d particularly want in our homes?
Kinect may have broader implications as well. It brings various surveillance and artificial intelligence technologies to a consumer market at a lower price. The Kinect system recognizes your voice. It remembers your appearance. Right now those technologies are only being used to enhance the gaming experience, but it’s not too much of a stretch to extend those features to other uses such as home security and entertainment. As Ashlee Vance writes in the Times, “Kinect technology is intended to start in the living room, then creep over time throughout the home, office and garage into devices made by Microsoft and others. People will be able to wave at their computer and tell it to start a videoconference with Grandma or ask for a specific song on the home stereo.”
But Microsoft is not doing this out of altruism. Vance writes, "Microsoft has long salivated over the notion of controlling the living room." She enthuses about Kinect noticing that “you’re wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey during a football game and switch the commentary to the voices of the Dallas announcers.” But if Kinect can do that, what’s to stop it from also sending that information about your clothing choices — as well as your size, weight, skin colour, gender, living room décor and furniture —to Microsoft through the internet-connected Xbox?
Honestly, the implications of this technology kind of make me afraid; mostly, I’m afraid that Microsoft is using the Kinect camera to record me dancing around like an idiot in my living room so they can post it on YouTube.
How do you feel about Lavender’s theories? Conspiracy nonsense or realistic concerns? Sound off in the comments section.