It’s all gone to HAL in a hand-basket.

Our Kinect was delivered to us today, allowing us at long last to step onto the surfboard on the very crest of the technology tsunami. We ordered it just yesterday and were super excited for it to arrived (not least of all because of all the amazing libraries already available for writing your own code for it).

We had a good comic incident at the front door thanks to our anticipation. First there was a knock just as we’d been talking about the Kinect coming, so I leapt up and answered it. A guy shouted jovially in Danish and I explained I didn’t speak Danish and he said “I’m the fish man!” And we, wanting to believe this was somehow still the Kinect, assumed he was somehow referring to the fact I was wearing Thai fisherman pants when I answered the door. But no. He was the fish man. Selling fish.

Still, the Kinect did arrive and we did clear our living area of furniture to create the one square mile of space the thing requires of you. Then we switched it all on and, after plenty of false starts and slightly subpar experience, we managed to play some of the (rather shitty) Kinect Adventures games. It totally works, is my point. You turn it on, dance around, problem solved. Pretty cool.

But then it gets weird. We watch our TV shows and movies via the Xbox, which means it’s on a bunch of the time that we sit on the sofa. And when the Xbox is on, the Kinect raises its little head and stares at us, even though we’re not using it. All this evening, as we’ve been watching Boardwalk Empire (weirdly flat) and Get Him to the Greek (unwatchable), the Kinect has gazed at our faces. I’ve been finding it super distracting, particularly because you can see the red sparkle of the IR emitter it uses to cast an invisible light pattern to decipher the three-dimensional world. It’s red eye sparkles just below the TV screen. Watching us watching.

Frankly, there’s something creepy about it being on all the time when you’re not playing a Kinect-related game and I wish there was some easy way to tell it, politely, to bugger off. In some ways it reminds me of the whole body-scan controversy with the TSA that’s going on, like the Kinect is silently watching us as if we’re naked 3D objects to be examined and interpreted.

In short, I’ve seen the future, and the future is seeing me back.

19 November 2010
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