Microsoft Says That Xbox One Kinect Is Not Built For Advertising

Among the various SNAFUs and PR misfires related to the Xbox One release earlier this year, one item that had people upset was that Kinect would be used for advertising--or worse, that the Xbox One Kinect was actually designed with advertising in mind. The source was a UI designer who was expounding the capabilities of the Kinect and how it could be used to deliver interactive ads and used for native advertising (i.e., ads built directly into the content).

There was a great fear that Kinect was gathering biometric information, reading people’s emotions, gathering data about how many and what kind of people were in a room at a given time, and more. But in a forum post on NeoGaf, Microsoft Director of Product Planning Albert Penello threw cold water on much of it.

Xbox One with Kinect

In response to a question from a forum member regarding NUAds (natural user-interface ads), Penello referenced the above interview and noted that the person only said that Kinect could be used for advertising, not that it would be. “First--nobody is working on that,” he said. “We have a lot more interesting and pressing things to dedicate time towards. It was an interview done speculatively, and I'm not aware of any active work in this space.”

He also stated that if Microsoft were to engage in something along those lines, users would definitely have control over it, meaning that Kinect would not be spying on you; you would have to engage with Kinect for anything to happen.

Penello also talked a bit about how Microsoft helps ensure privacy. For one thing, facial recognition data doesn’t leave the console, so even though Microsoft could develop some powerful facial recognition features using data stored in the cloud, that data stays local. He also noted, in reference to the idea that Kinect would be watching you without your knowledge, that Microsoft has built in features--for example, in Skype--that actually freezes the video stream when Skype isn’t the primary app running so that no one can accidentally leave it on.

Xbox Kinect biometric data
Of course, that's a lot of biometric data that Kinect is gathering...

Thus, he’s insinuating that Microsoft is more interested in a great end user experience and privacy that it is about selling ads however it can. The fact that Penello said these things in rebuttal to an earlier comment by a Microsoft employee gives him a bit more credibility here, but it would be naive to think that Microsoft isn’t also interested in selling ads in a unique way with its new hardware. And why not? Only a foolish company would ignore potential revenue streams, and running with a new style of advertising is a smart way to explore one. That’s not to say that users will embrace NUads, but if Microsoft can figure out a way to make it work without turning off customers, it will. Because Microsoft is a company that wants to increase profits, just like every company.

The initial proclamation wasn’t exactly an official Microsoft announcement, and the rebuttal isn’t either, so take both statements for what they’re worth.