Today Xbox chief Marc Whitten added some answers to his “Ask Microsoft Anything” thread over on IGN. There were several interesting tidbits, but one in particular stood out; the Kinect does not need to be always on and, in fact, can even be unplugged without hindering the use of the Xbox One.
“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,” said Whitten.
When asked, “How “off” can Kinect be when the system is in use,” Whitten answered:
“You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings. When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information. Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won’t work. We still support using it for IR blasting in this mode. You can turn the sensor back on at any time through settings, and if you enter into a required Kinect experience (like Kinect Sports Rivals for instance), you’ll get a message asking if you want to turn the sensor back on in order to continue.”
So it appears Microsoft is backing away from yet another unpopular feature on its Xbox One console. When the One was unveiled back in May, Microsoft and previous Xbox head Don Mattrick were adamant that the Kinect would need to be always on and plugged in to the Xbox console in order for the console to operate. Of course, Microsoft has been backtracking since E3. The company reversed its original DRM after an internet backlash, has increased its openness and support for indy development, and had already announced the Kinect could be disabled. This is the company’s latest reversal, and it should security minded folks happy.
But a major critique of the Xbox One is that it’s not available in a configuration without the Kinect sensor. The mandatory inclusion of the Kinect is considered the main reason the Xbox One is $100 more than Sony’s PS4. So, even though you can turn it off, you’ll still have to pay for the Kinect.
Microsoft senior exec Albert Penello later backed up and further clarified Whitten’s comments in a post on NeoGAF:
“We still believe in Kinect. We aren’t interested in splitting the development base. The more demos I’ve seen, the more I’ve used it – the more impressed I am. The team feels strongly about Kinect, and I hope we’re able to prove that when you use it.
We also have a ton of privacy settings to allow people to turn off the camera, or microphones, or put it in a state just for “Xbox On” and IR blasting – there will be a lot of user control for that.
The thing we all understood, and hence this change, is that there are some scenarios where people just may not be comfortable. We wanted people to be 100% comfortable, so we allow the sensor to be unplugged. And clearly the “it dropped” scenario is possible.
The most obvious thing is watching a DVD/BD, or streaming a movie, or HDMI pass-through, your experience isn’t impacted (except you miss voice and IR blasting)
There is no “gotcha”, but obviously, if there is a game that REQUIRES Kinect (like Rivals), or something where Kinect IS the experience (like Skype), those won’t work.
That said, for people who have privacy concerns there are user control settings, which we believe are great.”