6 posts in this topic



It's a long article, please read at the source.



"Xbox on."

We aren't in the habit of talking to our consoles. It feels weird - if not plain silly. We don't like the way that voice commands take longer to register than a good old-fashioned button press and we're unsure if it's actually going to work even if we do pluck up the courage to vocally command our consoles. And what's the point of using voice to turn on our games machine if we're reaching for our controller anyway? And how useful is voice control if we still need remotes for our TV and sound system?

What was novelty - if technically impressive - technology on the original Kinect forms a fundamental basis of interaction with Xbox One, and from what we saw at Gamescom, parallels with Xbox 360 hold little water. Voice control on Xbox One actually works and it seems to be genuinely useful. It should be faster than using the joypad for certain functions, but ideally you'd use both in concert. And as for Xbox's isolation from the rest of the components in your system, that is now clearly a thing of the past.

"It'll work with any TV, any amplifiers. It'll work with any AV equipment at home," says Xbox director of product planning Albert Penello. "When we say 'Xbox On' we can actually light up your whole entire system and control everything just with voice."

With full system integration, voice control comes into its own. Penello likens Xbox One's incorporation with your equipment to the Harmony universal remote, except that your voice is the key. You can walk into your lounge and your voice powers up everything: you won't need to reach for your remote or Xbox controller, you won't need to use multiple doobries to access each part of your system. Two words and you're up and running. Xbox One is always on. Even in its low-power sleep state, it should fully reactivate before your HDTV gets around to displaying its image. From a dashboard perspective at least, the days of waiting around for your console to boot should now be a thing of the past.

For this technology to work effectively, three things need to happen. First of all, Kinect's voice recognition tech has to just work - no mean feat considering the amount of languages supported, and the range of accents to accurately process. Secondly, Xbox One needs to know exactly what equipment is in the room in order to speak their own individual infra-red based languages. And finally, and perhaps most crucially, the IR signals that emanate from the console always need to register with the target hardware.

At the press booth, Albert Penello faces some challenges. The amount of ambient noise in the background is immense - the Gamescom din is hardly comparable with living room conditions and he needs to address Kinect loudly and clearly for the message to get through.

"It's noisy in here and unnaturally loud so I have to kind of yell at Kinect," he laments.

Integration with your home system comes via a simple set-up procedure, but Penello's instructions are clearly making their way through to the TV he has set up in the presentation room. And it's all happening without any kind of traditional IR blaster visible in the room.

"Xbox mute. Xbox unmute. Xbox volume up. Xbox volume down."

"That's not going through wires," says Xbox group manager of corporate PR, David Dennis. "That's Kinect blasting the infra-red codes to the TV, the TV picks it up and that's the TV UI changing."

The audio demo shows the strengths and the weaknesses of voice control in working with your AV hardware. Muting and unmuting are on/off functions clearly suited to the tech. Volume adjustments operate on a scale and really require continuous button presses or better still, turning a knob - voice control can't really achieve the same effect without monotonous repetition. Turning volume down by an appreciable amount would take a long, long time.

But what is impressive is that every voice command registered by Kinect is flawlessly transmitted to the relevant kit in the room. It works so well because Kinect itself is the IR blaster. Microsoft has augmented the new Kinect sensor with an IR transmitter in order to see the environment even in pitch black conditions. The upshot of this is that the technology works by drenching the entire room in infra-red light. Forget little LEDs attached to wires you dangle in front of your set-top box; if that's an IR blaster, the Kinect solution is effectively the equivalent of going nuclear. Debug Kinect tools allow you to see what the IR sensor sees - complete blanket infra-red coverage of the whole room. It's hard to imagine a scenario where this form of IR blasting wouldn't work.

The core interface and Kinect personalisation

Penello is now demonstrating the core user interface, and he's keen to point out the authenticity of the presentation, warts and all.

"We are running on real kits, real hardware - these are near-final boxes. There's no PC hidden underneath anywhere, there are no wires going back behind. Everything I'm actually showing is running on this box right here," he says.



I think it is high time Microsoft actually made public the Xbox One UI. They have only shown it in bits and pieces and that's not helping their already rocking boat.

They should let a non-PR person do a candid demo. Their glossy marketing videos are not going to cut it.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was just about to post this as well...

The more Panelleo talks the better... Everyone else should just let him be the spokesman... Gamers and Geeks will embrace Penello more so than the others...

Here was Panelleo during the reveal and E3?... The original vision would of probably been embraced if he were during the talking.l.

2 people like this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Real solid article highlighting just how integrated Kinect really is.  I think people will come around once they see it in action and see what it can do to make for a much more seamless experience.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Very interesting, especially the bit about Kinect acting as an IR blaster.  I'd be interested to see how that works in real life.


It's a shame they didn't include video so we could see it in action.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

"It'll work with any TV, any amplifiers. It'll work with any AV equipment at home," says Xbox director of product planning Albert Penello. "When we say 'Xbox On' we can actually light up your whole entire system and control everything just with voice."

The recognition data and profile data are two separate things. Like Xbox 360 before it, there is a calibration sequence where Kinect on Xbox One learns about you from your skeleton and face. This is held locally. However, the customised UI elements that populate the screen are stored in the cloud, pulled across via Xbox Live. You can even set up "pins" - or favourites, if you will - that you attach to the home screen for swifter navigation.

"Once you've signed into the console it will recognise you and it'll customise [the dash]. If you think about 360, and moving between different Xboxes you have to have a memory unit or a USB thumb drive with all your save games and everything," Penello says. "All of that goes away with Xbox One. All you need to know is your Xbox Live ID and all of your save games and settings follow you wherever you go."

Snapped apps: capabilities and limitations

But our focus is technology, and we're impressed with the apps functions and the integration of Snap. The question is, how does it function and what are its limits?

"We've talked about the Xbox OS where we have three different operating systems running at the same time. We have a very small operating system layer that's just the code, we have what we call the application layer so that the applications in the OS run independently of the games," Penello says.

"That's why you can do Snap and that's why I can switch independently between apps without affecting the game performance. The game gets the vast majority of resources for the console. The OS and applications run in a totally different part and they don't affect each other. Two games can't run simultaneously because they take up the bulk of the resources. So when I start a new game I have to unload the old game and load the new game, but I can still have up to four applications running in the background. That was instantly switching, as you were seeing."

The dash does seem to be resident in RAM even during gameplay, so could we snap in the UI during gameplay and adjust system settings?

"The more advanced dash in combination with four apps resident in memory at any one time begins to explain why 3GB of Xbox One's RAM is reserved for the system."

The system prompts have been redesigned on Xbox One, as you can see from the 'ready to play' indicator here. However, in the test software, the sound remains identical to Xbox 360.

"It's snapping the apps that were in the system. You can't snap the UI," David Dennis answers. "Imagine the Madden game and Madden app running simultaneously. Or think of Halo Waypoint as it is right now. Like you go out to Halo Waypoint and it's aggregating everything you do. Think of a Halo Waypoint app snapped as you're actually playing the game. It's updating the feeds. That's an app and a game operating at the same time and talking to each other."

"You could have YouTube snapped to a game, you could Netflix snapped to a game, you could have YouTube snapped to Netflix," adds Penello, pointing out that apps can be snapped to both games - and other apps.

While snapping in the UI itself is off the table, it seems that tasks we might use the dash for can be snapped in as individual apps.

"You can 'Snap party' and that'll show you everything people are playing and then you can join in games," Penello says.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

"It'll work with any TV, any amplifiers. It'll work with any AV equipment at home," says Xbox director of product planning Albert Penello. "When we say 'Xbox On' we can actually light up your whole entire system and control everything just with voice."

This is what interests me.... I have a insane amount of remotes in my living room... I had a harmony but it just never mapped exactly the buttons of my stb or my receiver to a point that i was happy with it. If my Xbox can take over a work as well as they claim it will.. Ill be happy.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.