Microsoft has backpedaled on many of its plans for the upcoming Xbox One including the always-on Internet requirement and DRM schemes, and now the company has rolled back another of its forced features. Previous plans for the upgraded Kinect that comes with each new console required that the camera be plugged in for the Xbox One to function at all, but plans change and now it's possible to unplug the Kinect and toss it in a closet if that's what you really want to do. IGN has the news in the form of a Q&A with Microsoft's Marc Whitten.
[L]ike 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.
You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings. 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.
Kotaku has more information and quotes. Privacy concerns and a general dislike of Kinect itself led many in the gaming community to speak out against the camera requirement, but Microsoft has shown that it's willing to listen and act based on customer concerns. There's no reason to force Kinect connectivity on people if they truly don't want the sensor silently working in the background all of the time. Obviously much of the Xbox One experience will revolve around Kinect and removing it from your console will hinder some of what you can do, but that seems to be a fair trade-off. Kinect can always be reconnected on an as-needed basis. Once again, kudos to Microsoft for acting on valid criticism even if it goes against the company's long-range Xbox One master plan.