“Always On” Kinect 2 Allows TV Ads to Control Your Xbox

From privacy concerns to shortages to decreased graphical performance to its role in raising the cost of the Xbox One, the Kinect 2 has been well known to create headaches for its owners.  Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) had big plans for the “always on” sensor for voice commands and gesture commands.  In fact it was so confident (or overconfident?) that it initially try to force users to purchase it by making it part of the only available bundle.  Last week it finally backed off that policy, releasing a new $399 USD Xbox One SKU — a SKU that shaves $100 off the console’s entry fee by dropping the Kinect 2.
Meanwhile, reports of a rather odd bug emerged late last week showing yet another potential wrinkle in the sensor’s woes.
One of the key features of the Xbox One is that it can take voice commands from anyone.  This was seen as a positive, in part, because you could use it in a social setting to show off the capabilities and play with new friends whose voice the Kinect 2 sensor didn’t recognize.
But ads show the problematic side of that capability — ambient voices can also turn on and command your console to do unpredictable things.  Designer Tim Kimberl (@timan25) recently posted a video to YouTube showing an ad bossing around his Xbox One.
The female narrator first orders the user’s content shown (“Xbox, show my stuff”) and then orders it to play a specific game (“Xbox, go to Dead Rising 3”).  The commercial then abruptly ends on a rather ironic tagline — “the one that recognize you, the all-in-one Xbox One”.

Similar problems have also popped with an ad starring Xbox One celebrity fan/advertiser Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman, Breaking Bad).  This video shows a good confirmation of these reports:

Now, some example videos have shown this happening with two facing TVs in very large/cavernous rooms.  That’s an unlikely brand of opulence for most, but as the second brand shows, the console can mistakenly respond to internet videos/advertisements or potentially radio ads.
As the second ad shows, the command is highly directionally dependent.  The Xbox One is listening for the on command from a user standing in an arc directly in front of the sensor/TV.  As a result, if your speakers are facing away from the sensor, it’s smart enough to screen out the ambient noise.  Only if you tilt to roughly perpendicular — or facing — the sensor normal does the console trigger.

Ditching the Kinect will of course make some games unplayable, and in most titles (where it’s used as more of a novelty) it will disable some features.  On the other hand, at least your console is cheaper, firmly under your own command, and not constantly watching/recording you.

It should be noted, however, that the Kinect 2 sensor’s ability to annoy gamers is not limited to TV advertisements. It can also be used for trolling purposes while gaming on your Xbox One:

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