xboxWell, it’s time for yet another Xbox One about-face. Microsoft had been saying that the Kinect sensor that comes bundled with every Xbox One would need to be plugged in for the console to function. It turns out that’s not quite the case.

While the Kinect is needed for a number of the Xbox One’s new features including voice control, the idea that it would be mandatory for the console’s use led to a number of concerns, especially as more and more revelations come out about the NSA’s spying capabilities. Now, according to a recent Q&A with a member of Microsoft’s Xbox team, there will be a new setting that allows you to turn off the Kinect.

“When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information,” Xbox Chief Platform Architect Mark Whitten told IGN. “Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won’t work.”

The Kinect will still be able to use its IR blasting capabilities while set to off, so the setting doesn’t equate to a complete shutdown. If you try to fire up something that requires the Kinect (like Skype), your Xbox will ask you to turn it on first.

But if the off setting isn’t enough, you can also unplug the Kinect from your console altogether, and the console will still be usable.

“That said, like online, the console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in, although you won’t be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor,” Whitten said.

So, if you’re worried that Microsoft (or some three-letter agency) is going to be spying on you through your Xbox One’s Kinect, feel free to unplug it.

Previously on GeekWire: Microsoft: You’ll be able to share an Xbox Live Gold subscription on Xbox One

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  • RobPG

    Smart move. I would never put an NSA surveillance device in my living room. Debundling Kinect should allow them to reduce the insane price too…

    • Guest

      It’s not being unbundled.

    • Big Buba

      I would like to know your definition of “insane pricing” is.

  • Guest

    Silly linkbait title aside, sounds like MS listened to user feedback.

  • Christopher Budd

    I’ve said the Kinect always on is a show stopper for me due to privacy concerns. So recognizing those concerns is a step in the right direction.

    But It still means you’re paying for hardware some of us won’t ever use. And I would have questions about the possibility of an attacker changing the settings and turning it back on (like you see with webcams on laptops).

    The right answer is to unbundle and give those of us who don’t want this the option not to have it. A company that generally has too many sku options should be able to handle two here.

    • Kuukuna

      If you have tin hat on buy PS4. Microsoft pretty much wasted all potential it had in original launch and now Xbox One is just Xbox 360 1.5. PS4 and Xbox One are now just HW upgrades offering nothing interesting for future. They are wasted opportunities for idiots.

    • Jason Farris

      Strong disagree. Kinect is part of the platform, and I’m buying the system with the understanding that every Xbox One will have that capability built in; that developers will be able to justify creating titles that leverage the sensor package knowing it’s available to every user. A Kinect-less SKU will fragment the base, ultimately gutting the users who did buy in thinking it was part of the system.

      I’d also like folks to consider the protest “something I won’t ever use” as a wee bit premature, it’s not even out yet and all reports say it’s vastly improved… functioning in complete darkness and accurate enough to use your voiceprint for security. I never thought I would use a lot of things that I now use all the time… at one point in the 90s I refused to carry a cell phone as I thought it was invasive… if people need to get a hold of me that bad they can leave a message on my answering machine!
      Point being, there’s a lot of applications for Kinect that haven’t even been explored yet; it’s not just for jumping around in front of your TV (although kids do go bonkers for that feature). Fracturing the SKU means those applications won’t get made. This is cool tech, let’s give it a chance to blossom.

      What if the iPhone had a version with no location? No gyroscope? No camera? What if I don’t want to take pictures and don’t want the extra cost (but still want an iPhone)? The idea that a cell-phone “knows” things about where it is, what it can see and how it’s being held were at one time foreign, strange and to some, scary concepts. But the ubiquitous inclusion opened the doors for wildly clever applications and a virtual second coming of creativity in tech.

      • Christopher Budd

        I will say your second and third paragraphs are the best argument I’ve seen made against a position like mine, thank you. I will further say that if you’re not part of the XBox communications team, they should hire you today: you’ve consistently explained the value of some of these controversial choices very well, usually better than they do.

        To your points, I could POSSIBLY be persuaded if the price dropped and there was a way to disable the feature at the hardware level (for security’s sake).

        But in my case it’s almost positive that I will never use Kinect.

        1. My XBox is in a TV cabinet behind a door. My set up has no place to elegantly accommodate the unit and give it the clear line of sight that it needs to take in movement (though maybe I don’t need to worry about spying then? :)).

        2. I have a personal animus against talking to technology. I have an iPad, I don’t use Siri. It infuriates me when automated phone systems force me to talk to them. I personally view humans talking to machines as dehumanizing and more than a little creepy.

        3. I’m what I call the poster child for casual gaming. I play to unwind and relieve stress. So sitting is the way to go for me. If I want to move I can go for a hike easily where I live.

        Totally grant that all those are specific to me and my circumstances. But in aggregate they mean I don’t ever see me using a Kinect (or to be fair the Sony equivalent either).

        • Jason Farris

          Chris, I appreciate the nice words, if anyone knows that hiring manager I would certainly have the conversation.

          To your other points, trying to not be too long winded

          1- Kinect has a long cord. My console is also tucked away, no line of sight with the console itself is necessary. Further, Kinect is an IR blaster / sensor, and can be used to control any other electronics you deem worthy, whether by voice, controller input, gesture input, smartdevice or otherwise. Even if you never gamed with it, even if you never talk to it, even if you ducktaped over the (stoked) 1080p camera, it’s still an integrated blaster, operating on all bands, paired to a fast machine wired, to the world. Apps? I want to try them! Smartglass connected IR? Yes please.

          2 – All Siri jokes aside, there’s certainly a preference here that no one need tell you otherwise. All I can say is, I felt the same way, but that one time when you can’t find a controller and you just break down and say “xbox pause”, despite your preconception of discomfort, you’ll likely realize it’s not much different than many other conventions we’ve adopted as a society, and oh yeah, it’s pretty handy. Me, I’m still not comfortable seeing people talking on bluetooths, my brain needs to see a brick in their hand held up to their face or I get creeped out. Maybe that’s my thing. Probably generational.

          3 – I’ll use your argument against you and roll in mine for (not-so) poetic conclusion; iPhone rules casual gaming, absolutely. It does so with an array input conventions unheard of in all of videogaming up to that point (gyroscopic, touchglass, persistant connectivity, photosensor, etc). Kinect is no more than an array of sensors with a (now matured) SDK attached to an 8-core beast. With an affluent install base expected near 100m or more and a full lifecycle to mature, I expect to see a lot more interesting applications. If it was only for jumping around, I’d be voting for a Kinect-less SKU too.

          In the long run $100 is nothing if you’re as interested in trying new ideas, even in their adolescence, as I am. That’s $16 a year over the life of the console, I spend that on lunch somedays. The alternative, save $16 a year on the other console and purposely sideline myself, voting for a “keep everything the same” design with my wallet?

          Many have made that decision without even seeing the tech for themselves, many more will wait until they have seen it, but I’m going to jump in.

          • Christopher Budd

            All interesting points worth thinking about thank you.

            I don’t know anyone in XBox these days but if I hear they’re looking you can bet I’ll try to make a connection.

            As far as your point about Bluetooth. I have a joke I make when I see people seemingly talking to themselves on the street: “Crazy or Bluetooth?”. :)

  • Gunzta

    Blair Hanley Frank = Idiot Journalist.

  • Rauel Crespo

    I don’t mind that it’s bundled…It was moronic to have an external accessory that can break be mandatory. I might even use it at one point. This really was the last barrier for me to purchase this machine. The DRM was the big one, MS litterally shitting on Indies was the second one they fixed, and the KKKinect being mandatory was the last big issue. While It’s still stupid that functions like Netflix and Hulu are trapped behind a paywall, that’s how it was with the 360 and the Xbone is finally looking like a true next gen Xbox, instead of an advertiser focused, Braugh-Box that spys on you and makes it as inconvienent as possible to use.

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