The Kinect is one of the most amazing pieces of consumer hardware on the planet. It can recognize the human anatomy with incredible logic and accuracy. And when Microsoft’s new Xbox One comes out next month, every unit will be packaged with an improved Kinect, capable of 1080p Skype video and improved 3-D fidelity that, using an IR camera, can even make out your body in the dark. With extreme specificity.
In fact, while I’d intended to post the above tech demo of the improved Kinect from Microsoft Research, I noticed, alongside the intricacies of a hoodie and jeans--and there’s no graceful way to put this--a dong. The Kinect hardware/software is now so effective at deciphering the bumps and folds of clothing that it can pinpoint a man’s package down to its pant leg, carving out the distinctive folds in our trousers that society, backed by a bit of shadowy denim, has become remarkable at ignoring.
Testing the new Kinect in a cozy room, I, amongst a small handful of journalists and engineers who I didn’t know, caught a glance at my own man penis on the screen. I felt the fear of every ninth-grade boy called up to the chalkboard.
As everyday technologies get better at seeing us naked, it does call to question: Should developers start thinking about censoring their imaging APIs? Should a company like Microsoft algorithmically smooth over chests, rears, and crotches at the core layers of their technology to protect a user’s chastity in the uncanny valley of nudity
? Because while the Kinect isn’t nearly as anatomically omniscient as the TSA’s controversial millimeter wave scanners and Backscatter X-ray machines, it’s still processing our anatomy at a level more acute than the human eye, and it’s only going to get better.
As increasingly capable technologies become more personal, we’re going to have to think less about what we can do, and more about what we shouldn't do. Whether it's Kinect staring at our crotches, Amazon peeking into our buying habits, or Facebook leering at our social life, the technology industry will have to continually strike a design balance
between the granular information they see and the information about ourselves that we see.