Microsoft updates Xbox with new design and voice control

5 Dec 2011

Microsoft will tomorrow roll out a free update that will transform the Xbox 360 games console into an all-in-one entertainment device. The new services employ Kinect’s voice technology to help users discover content, surf TV channels, connect socially and search Bing.

Marc Whitten, corporate vice-president at Xbox LIVE, said this will be the first wave of new entertainment experiences that will see customised entertainment apps make their way to the Xbox platform.

“We have a powerful platform with voice and gesture control, a great collection of top-tier entertainment partners from across the globe, and powerful social tools,” Whitten wrote in the official Microsoft blog.

“The experiences are real, and we are excited to share them with you starting this week.”

The update will add a new user interface with cascading tiles which indicate a move in the direction of the Metro interface due to arrive on Windows 8. Combine this with Microsoft’s three-screens vision – PC, phone and TV – then this vision is becoming realised.

Cloud, voice and social

In addition, cloud storage is making its way onto the Xbox via the update, which is great news for gamers frustrated by the amount of available storage on their machines.

Another key feature of the new update is the integration of Kinect into controlling the device, enabling users to move around the tiles with a swipe of their hand and issue voice commands to select content.

You get a sense that by introducing voice-based Bing search, Microsoft has stolen a march on Apple, which is believed to be working on a TV product with Siri voice-search capabilities.

Social capabilities are evident through a feature called Beacons, which sends messages to friends on Facebook with status updates indicating the user wants to play an online multiplayer game with friends.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years