Your TV screen is the most important screen in your home, according to Microsoft and they’d like to take charge of it with the new Xbox One.
Microsoft revealed the new Xbox One with a lot of fanfare saying that it will “change entertainment forever” and promising that “you and your TV are going to have a relationship.” A relationship built on the fact that your TV will now instantly be able to recognize you voice, your face and your friends. And from the look of the redesigned system, which comes with the Kinect, it does look like they’re trying to make it fit seamlessly into your living room electronics.
What Microsoft’s Don Mattrick showed off was a pretty spiffy-looking system that can be operated by voice or gestures, all thanks to a new and improved Kinect device. Mattrick said that Microsoft was on a mission to build a system that would combine games, TV and entertainment. He also called the Xbox One “Simple, instant and complete.”
He demonstrated that a user can simply say “Xbox on” and the system will turn on and take you to a personal homepage that remembers the last thing you watched and the last game you played. The voice activation would work for each member of the household, taking each person to their personalized homepage.
Xbox will recognize a universal set of gestures that will allow you to instantly switch between games, video and the internet with a wave of the hand. The interface looks an awful lot like the much-maligned Windows 8, and it features Windows 8′s Snap Mode that will allow you run applications side by side on a screen.
Microsoft gave the example of watching a movie, while at the same time using Internet explorer to learn more about the sequel, invite your friends to with you via Skype and then seek out movie times and purchase tickets all from your Xbox.
Following the trend of keeping things social, Skype will be part of the Xbox one and you will also be able to do group Skype calls. You could watch as game on ESPN, have your personal fantasy league stats displayed on the screen and have a group Skype chat to trash talk with your football buddies.
Xbox One will provide the integration between live TV and its service thanks to HDMI in and out that will allow you to hook your cable to satellite box up to the system. Microsoft seemed especially proud of the voice and gesture controlled program guide that it promised could respond to questions like, “What’s on HBO?” and “Show me TNT.” The speed and ease at which the Xbox navigated between tasks during the demo was impressive, but anyone who owns a Kinect and has spent time fruitlessly yelling commands at game might envision themselves screaming, “Game of Thrones, not Attack of the Clones! No not Bones, Game of Thrones!”
But Microsoft says it has vastly improved the Kinect, turning it into a lag free, instant experience and adding a 1080p field of view and the ability to process 2 GB of data per second. Plus Microsoft says that the new Kinect can even monitor your heartbeat while you exercise. I half-expected them to promise that the new system would display your emotions and needs on the screen like playing a game of Sims. And speaking of things Sim, the company hopes to avoid Sim City- style server nightmares by using 300,000 servers to power the service.
The Xbox one will feature 8GB RAM, USB 3.0, WiFi direct, a Blu-ray drive, native 64bit architecture and “a nearly silent operation.” Microsoft says the system will work seamlessly with other devices such as phones or tablets that have the Xbox Smartglass app installed and also boasted about the cloud storage.
In case gamers were starting to feel a little left out, Microsoft announced they will offer 15 exclusive Xbox One game titles the first year, with eight of them being new franchises. The company did not answer any questions about backwards-compatibility of older games, but promised to have more at the upcoming E3 event.
Judging from the presentation, the Xbox One looks something I like to call BTST (Better Than Star Strek), which means a device that is actually cooler that the stuff they told us we use in the future in old TV and movies. That is, if all the features work. My current Kinect has trouble seeing me if I’m wearing black pants.
No price was announced for the system and the release date was only given as “later this year.”