The creepy potential of the Xbox One: How the pieces come together.
Over the past two Xbox events, Microsoft has slowly been unveiling a lot about their new console. There have been a few thrilling developments such as the improved Kinect hardware and all-in-one nature of the console. However, there have also been quite a few confusing decisions made by Microsoft such as requiring a constant internet connection and requiring the Kinect to be always be on and, by default, always listening. Now that the dust has begun to settle, we can start to see how all these pieces fit together... and it's pretty creepy.
Game console meets set-top box
A month ago, when Microsoft first unveiled the Xbox One, their main focus was on the entertainment features of the system and how it can be used to control pretty much any type of content you could want.
One of their main focuses was its GoogleTV-like capability to work with your cable box or satellite receiver. They've also built in a Bluray player, music apps, and video apps.
They obviously want you to consume all your TV entertainment through their box and have loaded it with every capability needed for you to do so. In their ideal world, if you're watching tv... you're piping it through the Xbox One.
Kinect version 2.0
One of the most impressive things Microsoft has shown off about the Xbox One has been the new and improved Kinect sensor. In demos, they've shown how it can accurately identify everyone within it's field of view. Even more impressive is it's ability to keep track of everyone's mood and reactions by monitoring where their eyes are focused, their expressions, and even their heart-rate. It was definitely an astonishing show of technology.
However, as impressive as it was, Microsoft seems to be taking a huge gamble on including it with the system. The expensive hardware has a big effect on the total price of the system and is commonly regarded as something that gamers don't want.
Also, as if including it with the system wasn't enough of a gamble, Microsoft went further by requiring the Kinect sensor to always be plugged into the console. The sensor will always be watching and listening by default, always processing what it hears and sees.
Microsoft has obviously calculated this gamble and have their reasons. They say it's to encourage developer support but I think it fits into a much larger picture.
The grand scheme
So, let's recap where we're now at: An always-online, incredibly aware console that can monitor every piece of content you consume in your living room and know exactly how everyone reacted to it. The business potential of this is huge.
We now have all the pieces in place for Microsoft to sell incredibly detailed, real-time user analytics on every piece of content that passes through their system.
For example, imagine a company tapping into Microsoft to see exactly which demographics their commercial appealed to. They could answer questions like: who enjoyed it, who didn't, were people even paying attention, or what time of day did they get the best response?
This is an insane position for Microsoft to be in. Never has anyone been able to monitor viewer behavior remotely this close. It has the potential to allow content creators and advertisers to target consumer with an incredible level of precision.
Microsoft is making a big play for a big business opportunity. They've used gaming as a reason for people to install cameras and microphones to watch their every move in front of the TV. You may want to feel more connected to your game... but Microsoft just wants to connect you to whoever is willing to pay.