Across the vast lands of the internet, gamers have been raising concern about the Xbox One’s Kinect and their privacy, but do we really know just how much the Kinect 2.0 is capable of? The peeping tom super-camera is more sophisticated than we think and has the potential to take advantage of gamers when they’re mentally most vulnerable.
While our primary concerns have been that the Xbox One won’t drop the Kinect requirement and that it’ll always be watching, the Kinect’s other capabilities are undeniably impressive. These capabilities are similar to that we’ve seen in movies or never really considered to be a reality. Something that would be in thousands, maybe millions of homes much sooner than any would have thought.
Jamie Madigan, a writer who writes about the psychology of video games, published a very interesting blog on Gamasutra, discussing the possibility of the Kinect to exploit gamers’ mental exhaustion to sell them games.
Madigan starts off by mentioning some of the Kinect 2.0’s demonstrated features. It can tell where you’re looking, tell what mood you’re in from your facial expressions and even estimate your heart rate by the colour of your skin. The Kinect 2.0 will have night vision and the obvious voice recognition system. Yes, all this is pretty impressive, assuming it actually works come the time to see these features in action from the comfort of your very own home. After which it will transform into a T-1000 model and Skynet will take over the planet! *Cough!* Anyway, here’s the interesting part.
“And though it hasn’t been discussed, I wonder if the Kinect ‘s high definition camera could be programmed to measure one other important biometric: pupil dilation. This would be both awesome and worrisome, because while not exactly a mirror into our souls, the eyes can reveal a lot about what goes on in our minds. Madigan writes.”
It isn’t that far fetched either, but let’s not give Microsoft any ideas here. Pupil dilation can be used as an indicator of how hard the mind is working, when it’s working the hardest, and when it gives up because a problem is too hard to solve. It all boils down to “the more mentally taxed we are, the bigger our pupils get.”. Once the brain gives up, pupils snap back to normal size.
How is it possible to use this data in gaming through a piece of technology like the Kinect? It’s simple. The Kinect could use it to adjust game difficulty, and detect when a player is mentally tired.
“If the Kinect (or any camera) could detect pupil size, it would open up a whole new level of scaling game difficulty. A puzzle game could be made more and more difficult until you’re taxed just the right amount to get you in the zone –something psychologists call “psychological flow.” Imagine playing a rhythm game like Guitar Hero and having the game adjust the speed of the note highway until you’re pushed just to the brink of your abilities based on how hard you’re concentrating on the task.”
The unsettling implication of this capability, according to Madigan, would be that the Kinect would be able to tell when a gamer is stressed and mentally taxed, and then use this opportunity to sell gamers stuff.
“Willpower is like a muscle that can be exhausted by any mental activity, and when it’s depleted we’re more likely to do dumb stuff like make impulse purchases”.
I doubt that should any company try use this exploit, they’d not be caught out by the masses of superior internet minds. However, I won’t exactly put it past the world we live in today to try it.