Xbox One will work even if Kinect isn't plugged in, Xbox chief product officer Marc Whitten told IGN.
In the wake of the event in which Microsoft unveiled the next-gen console and its upgraded, bundled Kinect, Microsoft released a Q&A that characterized the Kinect as an "essential and integrated" part of the Xbox One.
After listing several features that Kinect brings to the system, including the Kinect sensor's always listening feature that enables powering on the system with voice commands, Whitten said that the console would still function even without Kinect.
"That said, like online, 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," he said.
"You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings," Whitten said. "When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information. Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won't work. We still support using it for IR blasting in this mode. You can turn the sensor back on at any time through settings, and if you enter into a required Kinect experience (like Kinect Sports Rivals for instance), you'll get a message asking if you want to turn the sensor back on in order to continue."
Microsoft's hardware program manager John Link told Polygon about the Kinect's settings on the same day that Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One.
"The Kinect has a variety of settings," Link said. "You know, it's always available to the system, so ... you can count, as an application developer or a game developer, [that] everyone's going to have a Kinect. You always have that stream available. And then, you know, there are settings, obviously, in the console to be able to change the settings of how your Kinect is used, if you're interested."
Update: Albert Penello, Microsoft's senior director of product planning, took to NeoGAF this afternoon to give some examples of the Xbox One's user-controlled privacy settings as they relate to Kinect.
"We also have a ton of privacy settings to allow people to turn off the camera, or microphones, or put it in a state just for 'Xbox On' and IR blasting — there will be a lot of user control for that," Penello wrote.
He went on to explain why Microsoft made the change, responding to a NeoGAF poster asking if an Xbox One user would be out of luck if their Kinect sensor fell and broke.
"The thing we all understood, and hence this change, is that there are some scenarios where people just may not be comfortable," he wrote. "We wanted people to be 100 percent comfortable, so we allow the sensor to be unplugged. And clearly the 'it dropped' scenario is possible."
Update 2: In an official statement sent to Polygon, Microsoft said, "There were several factors we took into account when we made this decision, but ultimately we felt removing the requirement lets you decide when you want Kinect attached to your Xbox One and when you don't. We've always given the option to turn Kinect On or Off and we still believe that once you try the all-new Kinect and the game and entertainment experiences it enhances or enables, you won't want to use your Xbox One without it."
Microsoft reiterated that Kinect is still "essential" to Xbox One, and that how video game software will utilize the camera sensor will be up to individual developers.
"Each game for Xbox One will use Kinect in different ways as it's an essential and integrated part of the platform," the statement reads, "however, it's up to the individual developers to determine what their game experience is when Kinect is disabled."
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