We're back with another edition of Ask Andru - this time we're focusing on the wildly popular Kinect add-on, and how useful it might be for Xbox 360 owners who primarily use their consoles for watching streaming video. On to the question:
My family has an Xbox 360 but we end up using it primarily for Netflix, not games. I've read that the recent Xbox Live update added more ways to navigate menus and content using voice and gestures with Kinect. Is it worth buying a Kinect just for those controls, if we don't use it to play games? Is talking and waving at the TV better than using the controller?
It's true--Microsoft recently released an update for the Xbox 360, known as the Fall 2011 Dashboard Update, that has fully optimized the console's interface for use alongside the Kinect add-on. Many early adopters of Kinect complained about how clunky and tacked on the experience felt when trying to navigate menus while using the Xbox 360 outside of gaming, and the update pretty much solved all of those problems. Now, it's easy to "grab" something on screen, swipe through menus, and make selections using hand gestures. Even cooler, though, is that the dashboard is now pretty much fully navigable using just your voice. Simply say "Xbox" and all your options for where you can go are displayed on the screen. If you can see it, you can pretty much say it. Here's a video I made that looks at the features you'll find in the latest update:
Microsoft also announced a significant number of related content partnerships, bringing most major services to the Xbox platform this week or by early 2012. On Dec. 6, Starting Dec. 6, a free Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone will let also let users find, learn more about and control content from popular entertainment services on Xbox LIVE.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday night, Microsoft said that the "Bing on Xbox" update would arrive on U.S. consoles beginning "tomorrow," and roll out to U.S. console owners over the coming weeks. Those without a Kinect peripheral will be able to search using Bing text search.
The voice search capability, first revealed in June, will work with both the Xbox Live Marketplace, Zune Video, and selected content partners. On Dec. 6, presumably the date of the update, Microsoft plans to add content from new entertainment partners, including apps, from EPIX, ESPN, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and MSNBC's Today.
Microsoft's vision for the Xbox platform, including voice search via Kinect, probably was more significant six months ago before Apple's Siri began dominating headlines with its ability to naturally search and interact with the user and a variety of apps. Nevertheless, it allows users to interact with a growing sea of content as simply as possible.
This morning at its E3 2011 Xbox Media Briefing, Microsoft announced that YouTube will be coming to Xbox Live this fall. They didn't go into too much detail about it, but you'll obviously be able to search and view videos from the YouTube service, and we're gonna go out on a limb and guess that you'll also be able to upload gameplay videos taken with Kinect directly to the service as well. Even without that last part though, adding YouTube is just another step Microsoft is taking in their hopes of making the Xbox 360 the ultimate living room hub.