Homeland Security using Xbox One for lots of stuff they can’t discuss

dfdfBy Dan Verton

Since its debut a few short weeks ago, Microsoft Corp.’s new Xbox One gaming console has jumped off store shelves at the rate of more than 100,000 per day. The pace of adoption has led to shortages in all of the 13 launch markets.

And now, less than two weeks before Christmas, there’s one more market that may be trying to get its hands on the new Xbox — the homeland security market.

While purchases by federal, state and local security agencies won’t be having a real impact on the commercial availability of the new Xbox One anytime soon, officials acknowledged in interviews with FedScoop unnamed federal agencies have been leveraging the Kinect 3-D motion-sensing, facial and voice recognition technologies that power the Xbox One for security purposes.

“They’re using it to look for threats,” said Greg Myers, vice president of Microsoft Federal. Although he mentioned improvised explosive devices, Myers declined to provide additional details or other specific examples, citing security and customer confidentiality concerns.

“It’s a gaming system, but it’s a development platform that we can do all kinds of things on,” said Joan Barrow, director of the Microsoft Technology Center in Reston, Va., one of 11 such centers around the country. Barrow gave FedScoop a tour of the new center, which includes a large space setup like a family room that features a new Xbox One system. Barrow also alluded to a wide range of non-gaming applications where the popular Xbox is quickly gaining traction.

“It’s great for gaming, but think about it in an operating room where a doctor needs to look at X-rays, but he’s already sterilized and he can’t touch it,” Barrow said. “That doctor can manipulate the image with his hands. In physical therapy, it can record movement progress and can tell me whether or not I’m making progress. And in war-gaming, we’ve used it with some of our DOD systems integrators to leverage this technology in simulations.”

Microsoft’s Kinect is the sensing technology that allows gamers to use their bodies and body motions as the game controller. The company re-engineered Kinect for the Xbox One to be more responsive and precise.

Information about the use of the Xbox’s Kinect motion-sensing and optical technologies is scarce in the U.S. But in Singapore, the government is promoting multiple proof-of-concept studies that show just how powerful the Xbox Kinect system is in a public safety and homeland security context.

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