Classified documents published by The Guardian reveal that British surveillance agency GCHQ surreptitiously gathered webcam images from more than a million Yahoo user accounts, while also evaluating the surveillance potential of the Xbox 360's Kinect peripheral.
"In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery - including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications - from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally," the Guardian reports, before noting that this operation (codenamed "Optic Nerve") was only one of the agency's attempts at biometric recognition via consumer camera technology.
A separate GCHQ project explored the possibility of gathering images from the Kinect peripheral. "[O]ne presentation discusses with interest the potential and capabilities of the Xbox 360's Kinect camera, saying it generated 'fairly normal webcam traffic' and was being evaluated as part of a wider program." It's unclear if GCHQ ever attempted to intercept Kinect data on a large scale, but as The Guardian points out, the idea isn't entirely novel. Earlier documents published by the paper detail similar exploratory efforts by the American NSA.
[Image: Wikimedia Commons]
So far I’ve taken about as much interest in Kinect as I have the sleeping patterns of Moldavian snails. Every now and then I’ve seen maybe an interesting proof of concept, but it really does seem to come down to other people pretending to dance while I sit in a corner wishing I were at home. But no more! Fru is a game, created by Mattia Traverso and chums, as part of last weekend’s Global Game Jam (theme: “We don’t see things as they are but as we are”), and I would very much like to play it. A twin-world platformer, where the portal to the other dimension… is you.
Fru is two platformers in one game, with one layer of the world shown clearly on the screen, and another layer uncovered within the silhouette of a player's body as it moves in front of the Kinect camera, in real-time. The silhouette world offers new platforms, enabling players to reach the exit door in each level (with a little hopping, ducking and contortion).
Fru comes from a collection of indies during Global Game Jam 2014, which prompted developers to create games with the theme "We don't see things as they are, but as we are." The team had 48 hours to create the game, and Fru ended up winning the judge and audience awards in the NHTV Breda Global Game Jam competition. If you have a Kinect hooked up to your PC, you can download Fru right here.
Game Designer Mattia Traverso - who is also working on the crowdfunded documentary game, Riot - tells Joystiq that he hopes Microsoft notices Fru so the team can expand on the idea.
"We definitely have plans to bring this to the next level," Traverso says. "We are starting to work on it to make it an actual, full game and I am contacting Microsoft right now to see what we can do .... Right now we are trying to give it some visibility, to show the big M that this project is actually something interesting that people like."
I can understand why game developers working on next-gen games might be psyched to play around with voice commands. They represent an interesting and relatively new way to let players interact with games. But there's at least one next-gen voice command I can happily do without.Read more...
A spurious image has been making the rounds and implying
that you can use the Xbox One's developer tool menus to make the Xbox One play
Xbox 360 games. Problem is, the image is dead wrong and you could brick your
Xbox One. Don't do that.Read more...
If you'd like to take revenge on the Xbox One for watching you move and listening to everything you say, you can now get inside its brain and see a whole bunch of developer settings you probably shouldn't be looking at.Read more...
It's dangerous to shop alone, so take this - our regularly updated mega-post on the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals:
The time of preparation is at hand. As globs of turkey, stuffing and aunt Brandine's weird ambrosia salad battle for dominance in your stomach, you must plan your Black Friday attack. Welcome to Joystiq's Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals roundup post, where we've cataloged all the game-related savings we could dig up.
Remember that these summaries don't include every last detail of every retailer's deals. We recommend judicious clicking and further scrutiny of your preferred outlets based on personal preference, weather conditions and geographical proximity. You'll find sales for four of the major retailers below, with plenty of other deals after the break.
Be frugal, be safe and remember to watch out for aunt Brandine. She stops for no one.
Best Buy: New games and accessories for $35 or less, monster Xbox 360 bundle for $190
GameStop: Game discounts, Battlefield 4 (current-gen) for $25, limited edition Zelda 3DS
Target: Bonus gift cards, $190 4GB Xbox 360 Kinect bundle, $25 Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Walmart: $100 2DS, $40 Skylanders and Call of Duty: Ghosts, $35 AC4: Black Flag and GTA 5
Microsoft is heavily discounting 52 Xbox 360 games and add-ons this week on Xbox Live. The games on sale separate out into three categories, a full list of which can be found after the break. The week-long deals, which run from today through December 2, include both Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Tomb Raider for half-off as well as Sleeping Dogs (38 percent off) and Mark of the Ninja (66 percent off).
Xbox Live will feature two separate one-day sales as well, with games like WWE 2K14 and Diablo 3 being discounted by 33 percent as well as Rayman Legends and the Halo 4 Champions Bundle by 50 percent on November 29 only. Among the games on sale for Cyber Monday (December 2) only are Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Red Dead Redemption, Dark Souls and The Witcher 2 for 75 percent off each and Battleblock Theater for 67 percent off. We suggest you clear some space on your Xbox 360 hard drive, pronto.
The Xbox One's voice commands, while generally excellent, have a problem. OK, two problems. The smaller one is they don't always work. The bigger one is that you need to memorise a chart like this just to be able to use them properly.Read more...
The Xbox One is a testament to Microsoft's towering ambition. It represents their desire not only to occupy a place in your home entertainment center, but to lumber straight into the center of it. It is a black plastic tank, a hard-edged chunk of corners meant to conquer everything in its path. But for all its imposing physicality, it has a surprising number of weak spots.Read more...
Apple is currently in talks to purchase PrimeSense, the original suppliers of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing technology, according to All Things D. The acquisition was first reported by Isreali publication Calcalist, which indicated that the purchase will amount to $345 million.
Founded in 2005, PrimeSense contributed its 3D sensing technology to the Xbox 360 version of Kinect. Microsoft since went with in-house developers for the latest iteration of the Kinect for Xbox One, the company's latest console set to launch this Friday. Apple may be allegedly targeting PrimeSense for the company's Capri technology, a newer form of its 3D sensing tech used in mobile devices such as Google and Samsung's Nexus 10 tablets.
This is called a Dynamic Shape Display. MIT built it, and it uses a Kinect sensor. In one of its applications, instead of a user in real life manipulating something on a TV, it puts the user on a TV, manipulating something in real life. See for yourself.Read more...
Privacy and player data on Xbox One have been big concerns ever since Microsoft revealed its next console. If Microsoft's latest changes regarding Kinect and privacy haven't quieted your worries, you can read through their privacy statement in full over here. Be sure to click on the learn more links to expand each category. If anything jumps out at you, post it into the comments for discussion.Read more...
Not that the Xbox One will be spying on you, that's always sounded a little overly-dramatic to me, but if you're the type to assume the worst - but still, um, buy the console regardless - then this is the peripheral for you.Read more...
IndieCade isn't just a huge celebration of independent game development, it's also a street festival designed to appeal to all types of people, not just those who enjoy traditional video games. Enter Night Games, a special IndieCade event featuring lots of big, physical games designed to be played in the dark. That includes everything from the rhythmic, Kinect-powered Soundodger Live to The Hearst Collection, a life-sized recreation of a museum art heist, complete with laser security grid.
Head past the break for a video rundown of our favorite Night Games, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire IndieCade festival.
At-home motion capture. Heart rate detection. Compatibility with smaller spaces. Microsoft has been promising impressive things about the new iteration of Kinect, which they kind of have to do seeing as how they’ve made it a mandatory part of buying an Xbox One. Now they’re trying to show you how the motion-sensing sensor will be worth the trouble. Read more...
Microsoft has been awarded $15 million in damages by a jury following a patent infringement lawsuit first filed by Motorola in 2010. Motorola spokesman William Moss said in a statement (via the Seattle Times) that the company was "disappointed" but is looking forward "to an appeal of the novel legal issues raised in this case."
Motorola Mobility claimed Microsoft had infringed upon five different patents in the original lawsuit, though four were eventually dismissed over the years. The fifth patent, which deals with peer-to-peer communication between two wireless devices, then became the focus of the case over the last few years.
The last year saw the most developments in the case, with ITC Judge David Shaw ruling in favor of Motorola in April of last year. Shaw then pushed for an Xbox import ban in the US the following month, only to have the ITC remand his decision and push it back to an administrative law judge for a second look. The suit then went through the process again, though Shaw ruled in Microsoft's favor the second time around.
Illumiroom isn't on its way to stores, bundled with Xbox One or otherwise, for fear the price tag would topple the shelves, Microsoft planning lead for Xbox One Albert Penello said at Gamescom, reported by Aus Gamers.
Illumiroom, an initiative from Microsoft Research, looks like a nifty piece of technology - it connects to a console, ideally an Xbox One, and projects over a player's room, surrounding the TV and expanding game effects on top of real-world objects. "I wouldn't expect you'll see that," Penello said. "It's very, very cool tech but it's, like, for a consumer, it requires projectors and things. It's really super-neat if you're in the lab and you've got Microsoft money and you could totally set up this awesome lab, but... we looked at it, but for an average customer it's, like, thousands of dollars."
When it was first revealed in January, Illumiroom was labeled "proof-of-concept." In April, Microsoft Research said Illumiroom was still in the prototype stage.
The newest realm in Xbox One's Fantasia: Music Evolved is a wintry wonderland called The Haven, and it features songs from Kimbra, Fun and Vivaldi, along with two remixes of each track. Players will awake a singing yeti and explore dark caves, all in the name of conducting music.
The Xbox 360 Kinect camera may have been intended for use with video games, but many of its most interesting uses were unlocked once the device was hacked. Suddenly, people had access to a cheap, relatively easy to use motion capture device. Nice!Read more...
Freefall Racers looks like most kart games, except that it uses Kinect's motion controls and features skydiving squirrels instead of go-karts. The nutty XBLA game is due sometime next month, according to this video from publisher Deep Silver.
This isn't the first we've heard of Freefall Racers. It popped up on our radar back in May, correctly rumored as being developed by Kinect specialist studio Smoking Gun Interactive. You may recognize the Vancouver dev from its work on Kinect games like Home Run Stars, Mars Rover Landing, and Doodle Jump.
The video doesn't go into too much detail, but it does reveal some of the game's power-ups including the zapper, smoke-screen, and shield. It also spills the beans on a local two-player mode, featuring some competitive split-screen plummeting.
We're waiting for a release date to drop, but a price floats into view: $9.99/£7.99/€9.99.
The Xbox One launch was delayed to 2014 in eight territories - Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland - but it wasn't because of a "volume issue," Microsoft Senior Director of Product Management and Planning Albert Penello told OXM. The delay came down to localization with the new Kinect, the site reported.
"People assume there's a volume issue which in fact there isn't," Penello said. "You're actually seeing pre-orders pop back up now because we're able allocate the countries' volumes back in. It's there; the problem is localization. And once people see the system and how integral it is - it's not just text integration."
The new Kinect doesn't work like the Xbox 360 Kinect, and its new features make localization more difficult, Penello said.
"I think people are using the way [voice] works on Xbox 360, which was an accessory we built five years after release, as how it's going to work here," he said. "But it's so much more elegant and so much more integrated, and in many ways it's a lot faster and more convenient, whereas on Xbox 360 it's a lesser version of doing the thing you're used to doing on your controller."
The Xbox One will launch as scheduled this November in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Spain, the UK, the US and New Zealand.
Phil Spencer, Corporate VP of Microsoft Studios, will deliver the Gamescom keynote when the convention kicks off next week in Cologne, Germany.
"Gamescom is the ideal platform to discuss the impact of new hardware, accessories and software for the next generation of games," Spencer said in a statement obtained by CVG. "There has never been a better time to be a part of this industry. It is exciting to see how developers and authors to use the new opportunities and create a completely new way of playing."
Apart from the keynote, Microsoft's on-stage showcase on Tuesday, August 20, will be "really short," Spencer told Major Nelson. It will focus on developers and their games, with a "unique exclusive" and "Europe's biggest franchise," Spencer said, and following presentations will give press and players hands-on time with Xbox One games.