Xbox Kinects Are Allegedly Being Used as Surveillance Cameras

Newark Liberty International Airport has an unexpected new security system: the Xbox Kinect motion controller.Jason Scott, a video game historian and archivist, tweeted photos from a recent visit to the Newark International airport that shows Kinect devices allegedly being used to monitor the crowds moving through the airport. The sensors are attached to a long arm that extends out over the terminal from hanging monitor screens

A second close-up photo shows the Xbox logo still stamped onto the top left corner of the Xbox Kinect unit.

The Kinect is a motion-sensing device Microsoft first released in 2010 as a hands-free motion controller for the Xbox 360. The Kinect was released as a competitor to the Wii motion controllers and the PlayStation Move during the motion controller craze. Yet neither Microsoft’s Kinect controller nor PlayStation’s Move controller managed to reach the same level of success as the Wii.

Microsoft updated the Kinect with the release of the Xbox One with an improved hardware and expanded feature set. Users could use the Kinect to control their Xbox One consoles using voice commands or use the camera to Stream online.

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What Happened to the Microsoft Kinect?

When users failed to connect with the Kinect, Microsoft began shifting its motion controller away from its games hardware strategy. The Xbox One S was released in 2016 without the proprietary port required to hook-up a Kinect, and the Kinect itself was discontinued in 2017. For a time Xbox released an adapter that let users connect the Kinect to the Xbox One S and Xbox One X. But that adapter was discontinued in 2018.

Microsoft seemingly changed directions on the Kinect, moving it away from gaming and more towards private enterprise use. In 2018 Microsoft announced Project Kinect for Azure which combined the Kinect camera and sensor with its Azure cloud services.

Microsoft also sells a Kinect House Monitor on its of Canadian website that can turn a Kinect camera into a home security device. However, it currently has a single one-star review that called it, “Way too [crappy]! [N]o interface, looks like [W]indows 95.”

Newark International Airport isn’t the only business utilizing Kinects as security devices. A Reddit post from u/docbaily posted eight months ago showed photos of a Walmart store that also reportedly uses a Kinect as a security camera.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft to find out if it’s aware how the Xbox Kinects are being used in Newark International Airport, and for an explanation on how the Kinect could be used for surveillance purposes. We’ve also reached out to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to ask how long Newark International Airport used Kinects as part of its security system.

Although the era of using Kinects as motion controllers may be over, Kinects may now be a part of your non-gaming life. Whether you know it or not.

Matt Kim is a reporter for IGN. You can reach him on Twitter.

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