We’ve already looked at people with privacy concerns over Microsoft’s freshly open-source-driver’d Kinect controller, but there’s another end to the spectrum of attitudes to new technology: while some folk worry about what the Kinect might do in the wrong hands, others are busily and cheerfully working out what it could do while something more personal is in their own hands… or elsewhere [via grinding.be]. Look away now if geeky people discussing smutty uses of consumer electronics products is likely to offend…
So what can the kinect bring to sex? Well, probably not a good real time rendering of your cock, or strap-on, or really any genitalia a usable way for pornography. Why? Because that’s not really what it was made for.
Microsoft put a ton of work into making the kinect track the human body as a whole, so you can play games by jumping and running and generally acting the fucking fool and feel like you’re in the game instead of just sad. Genitalia, for the most part, are not a major geometric feature of the human body when taken in perspective of physical size (as opposed to say, genitalia perspective in relation to the ego, where they may actually make up more than 100%). Neither are they normally used in the control of video games, be they rated everyone or AO. Not to say that experiment hasn’t been tried, but it didn’t turn out too well, and we’re probably a few years off of the video game market being ready for Mike Tyson’s Super Cockslap-Out. So why even try to track that small part when you’re interested in the whole body? You may be able to see it, but it won’t work well.
The kinect alliviates the need for having hardware, because now as long as we have a shot of the “action”, as it were, we can use that “gesture” as a control. Not only that, the gesture itself is the toy. Or you could employ a toy under the gesture. The possibilities, they may or may not halt.
With masturbation, however, the kinect does not make this a trivially solved problem. Due to the close contact of the hand with the body, possibly with some inanimate object in between, there will still have to be some calibration and thresholding to figure out exactly where the genitalia versus the hand versus the surrounding body parts are. We’ll have the image and the depth data, but it’s not like the above above video where the hands are being held far out from the body, which is a situation the kinect is made for. Masturbation and general self-manipulation is something that’s out of the kinect’s normal operating procedure, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out. We’re smart and bored, after all.
Bonus: here’s Penny Arcade with some, ah, commentary:
And here’s Jonah Lehrer at Wired talking about the Kinect in terms of less explicit – but arguably more fundamental – unions between the body and the machine:
For most of the 20th century, [William] James’ theory of bodily emotions was ignored. It just seemed too implausible. But in the early 1980s, the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio realized that James was mostly right: Many of our emotions are preceded by changes in our physical body. Damasio came to this conclusion after studying neurological patients who, after suffering damage in their orbitofrontal cortex or somatosensory cortex, were unable to experience any emotion at all. Why not? The tight connection between the mind and body had been broken. Even though these patients could still feel their flesh – they weren’t paraplegic – they could no longer use their body to generate feelings. And if you can’t produce the bodily symptoms of an emotion – the swelling tear ducts of sadness, or the elevated heart rate of fear – then you can’t feel the emotion. As Damasio notes, “The mind is embodied, not just embrained.”
Although we might look a little foolish flailing around the living room, the game has managed to excite our flesh, and that means our emotions aren’t far behind. As a result, we are more scared by the possibility of virtual death (and more thrilled by the virtual victory) because our body is fully engaged with the game.
For decades, video game designers have been obsessed with visual realism, as if the eyeball was the key to our emotional brain. But accurate graphics have diminishing returns. At a certain point, we don’t need more pixels – we need more physicality. And that’s what’s so exciting about the Kinect (and the Wii before that): For the first time, video games are able to deliver a visceral emotional experience, as our body is tricked into confusing fiction with reality.
The Kinect is admittedly a pretty basic implementation of all this potential, but then the first product to market usually is. Interesting times ahead.