Microsoft’s new Kinect gesture-based game controller is about to invade living rooms across the world. If Microsoft has its way, the living room is only the start of interactive sci-fi-like gesture controlled technology in every room of every house. It may be great fun, but before you hookup, you should know that Privacy International has some long-term concerns about Kinect’s use of facial and voice recognition technology. The group tweeted, "We played with Kinect recently; MS thought thru current privacy issues (e.g. consent) but longer term is daunting."
Right now, Kinect seems to be looking to make gamers out of those people who do not game because the remote controls are too complicated. Kinect is supposed to allow people to play games with their whole body and without needing remote controls. The technology uses motion sensors, skeletal tracking, facial recognition, and voice recognition. It has are two depth perception and light source 3D cameras and a regular Web camera to track and identify users. It also has facial recognition capabilities, artificial intelligence, and four microphones for voice commands that know the difference between chatter of other people in the room or sound coming from the TV. During game play, Kinect takes photos of gamers and then offers them for viewing or sharing.
The New York Times reported, "Microsoft upgrades and rewires the Kinect brain every 24 hours and can send updates to Xbox systems via the Internet when it chooses. Kinect recognizes someone it has seen before by body shape, so there’s no need to log into the system each time a game is played. It knows your left hand from your right and can distinguish between two players even when their paths cross." If it can't tell identically dressed twins apart, Alex Kipman, incubation director for Xbox 360, said Kinect will ask if you are A or B. Kipman added, "Then, you end up with the equivalent of a different bar code."
Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said, “This is an incredibly amazing, wonderful first step toward making interactivity in the living room available to everybody.” Ballmer then cautioned that Microsoft still has “a lot of work to do.”
I'm not saying it's dangerous that Kinect software can detect if a gamer is happy, but in Windows 8, Microsoft seems to be planning interactive computing. Microsoft called it “My PC Knows Me.” According to screenshots from Manan Kakkar, Microsoft plans for Windows 8 to detect users when they enter the room via proximity sensors and motion detectors, for the computer to resume where it left off, to use facial recognition as user authentication and login, and for the PC to lock and hibernate when it detects the user has left the room. What if I don't want my computer to watch me and detect me? This, like Kinect, may prove to be absolutely cool or it may open the door to unforeseen privacy or security issues.
Like this? Check out these other posts:
- All of today's Microsoft news and blogs
- Microsoft Proposes Each PC Needs A Health Certificate or No Net Access Allowed
- EFF Warns of Untrustworthy SSL, Undetectable Surveillance
- Microsoft's Davis on Privacy: Your Digital Life Data is Bankable Currency
- ACLU Report: Spying on Free Speech Nearly At Cold War Level
- Full-Body X-Ray Scanners Driving Down A Street Near You?
- Facial recognition: Identifying faces in a crowd in real-time
- Microsoft's Live@edu email not encrypted on cloud servers
- Cyber-Warfare: U.S. Military Hackers and Spies Prepare to Knock the World Offline
- Privacy Choices: Who's Watching You and Tracking Your Clicks?
Follow me on Twitter @PrivacyFanatic
Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. Smith has a diverse background in information technology, programming, web development, IT consulting, and information security. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.
Smith is an independent contractor and is not affiliated with any vendor that makes or sells information technology.
Policy on comments: Respectful discussion is welcomed! However comments that use inappropriate language, consist of name calling or personal attacks, or include accusations of wrongdoing are not appropriate. Those comments will be deleted or edited