Microsoft has said before that the Kinect 2.0 camera that comes bundled with every Xbox One console is not going to be spying on you or sending your sensitive data to the NSA for their PRISM spying program. Company employees have confirmed though, that the peripheral will be used for advertising purposes and will use the camera and microphone to create a personal profile for more effective advertising.
Speaking to StickTwiddlers, a number of Microsoft staff in the Xbox Live division have spoken about their experiences with using Kinect on the Xbox 360 and say that the integration of the camera in the Xbox One was a key part in their advertising strategy. The microphone will pick up audio cues about the things you like and will deliver adverts to you based on what you say in front of it, similar to how Google searches give you relevant links and keywords in e-mails target adverts in your direction.
The camera will also pick up visual cues from the room it’s in. For example, if you have lots of Star Wars posters in your living room, it may offer you adverts for Star Wars games, tickets to the musical or even booking seats for viewings in your local cinema (remember, only in America). If the console serves a large family, Kinect will note this and Xbox Live will offer up movies or advertisements that cater for families. Together with your location, your age and more, the console will learn what you do and don’t like and even will watch your media habits to see what you enjoy viewing.
Sony has a similar project in the works with the Playstation 4, but it works without the optional Playstation Eye and only monitors your activity on the PSN Store.
Microsoft has said that they’ve set limits for the amount of information they can glean through the system, as StickTwiddler discovered:
The attending Xbox LIVE Advertising Developer commented that they don’t actually receive a lot of the biometric information collected by Kinect. “This sort of works at two levels. There’s the game producers who have a different API, so a different set of code and system that they use, and they’ve got a lot more control of the whole thing,” he stated, “whereas from the advertising point of view we have a slightly more limited set, which is designed to protect the user. The company is very keen on protecting the user from any sort of abuse so we can’t do certain things.”
The employees note further that Microsoft double-checks all the adverts they put on the service to make sure they’re not harmful or offensive or target the wrong group of people. Said the Senior Digital Art Director/UX Designer; “So the users know that this is something that when they click on it, they won’t be hit by something crazy or something dangerous like on the web. Everything that lands there, we create.”
It looks like Microsoft is actively working towards making the Xbox One into a money printer as opposed to just a home entertainment center that they can build and sign off on. Interesting times are ahead at the Redmond company, but one has to wonder if these revelations will have any further impact on how the Xbox brand is viewed by loyalists today.