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Xbox 180: Microsoft scraps mandatory Kinect policy

All-seeing, all-hearing Redmond stooge no longer on ALL the time

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In the wake of the NSA spying revelations, Microsoft has said gamers will no longer need to have an all-seeing, always-online eye and ear attached to their Xbox.

Another day brings another reversal in Microsoft's summer of U-turns, and this time its the backtracking of Kinect being attached all the time.

Microsoft's Xbox Live veep Marc Whitten told IGN on Monday that the upcoming Xbox One console will not need Kinect to be plugged in all the time.

Given the recent news that the NSA has been studiously compiling records on the email and social habits of the world's population, and Microsoft's alleged participation in the agency's PRISM data-slurping program, people had been worried about sticking an always-on informer into their living room.

But Microsoft put those fears to rest on Monday, when Whitten said: "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".

This contrasts with the role of the eye of Sauron Kinect in the XBox One's original announcement, which had said the Kinect would always need to be plugged in and the console would always need to be online.

However, after players became outraged, Microsoft reversed its always-online policy, and has now done the same for the Kinect, making the Xbox One look more like an Xbox 180.

"You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings," Whitten says. "When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information. Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won't work."

Microsoft is keen to make the Kinect a central part of the Redmond gaming experience, having built motion control into the Xbox UI and many of its games. But some people find the concept of a camera capable of sensing your heartbeat somewhat creepy, and – at least for now – there'll be able to stay away from the Gorgon stare of Microsoft's living room d(a)emon. ®

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