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Soda Drinker Pro goes next-gen

Xbox One version coming
Apr 15
// Dale North
You wanna talk next-gen? The next generation of games isn't about graphics or motion control or laser beams or whatever. It's about soda. Sweet, sweet b-b-b-b-bonus soda. And that soda is coming to Xbox One later this year. S...
Dumb Idiot Ideas photo
Slow news day?
This week, we filmed a wonderful short piece in which Bill and I discussed the lack of video games that let us play as actual animals. Unfortunately, Bill's microphone cut out mid-discussion, and the camera's face-tracking started focusing on an animated GIF of some dogs having sex I had up on my monitor behind me. So, here's what we did instead. 

Kinect photo

Molyneux says that a Kinectless Xbox One is an inevitability

'It feels more and more like a joke'
Apr 08
// Brett Makedonski
Despite strong sales numbers, Microsoft's Kinect has always been a contentious piece of hardware. Even though the iteration that comes bundled with the Xbox One is more functional than the original for the Xbox 360, it still ...
Kinect Sports photo
Kinect Sports

Kinect Sports Rivals has a Battletoads reference in it

I'll hold your hand while we cry for Rare
Apr 07
// Chris Carter
As the sands of time continue to drop in this hourglass called life, it's easy to forget things -- even major elements of our childhood. For instance, I completely forgot Rare was responsible for the amazing Battletoads ...

Review: Kinect Sports Rivals

Apr 07 // Chris Carter
Kinect Sports Rivals (Xbox One)Developer: RarePublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease: April 8, 2014MSRP: $59.99 Rivals begins with an interesting avatar creation process led by David Tennant of Dr. Who fame. It's a fantastic intro for any piece of entertainment, as Tennant has a perfect voice for it, especially when you consider the fact that this is his first foray into videogames. Kinect has come a long way since the original iteration, and now you can play closer to the TV as well as enjoy some of the enhanced scanning capabilities. The scanning module can detect glasses and facial hair, as well as your general physique. It takes a few minutes, but the results are pretty incredible -- at least, they were spot-on for me outside of a slightly bigger head than I would have liked. Against all odds this Kinect-only game allows you to control all of the menus from a controller -- additionally, you can fight with hand pointer motions, or employ the smooth voice controls to navigate the menu. Personally, I'm just glad they added options this time around, and this should be considered standard for all motion-based games. The theme of Rivals is decidedly contemporary, sporting licensed music for its soundtrack like Calvin Harris' "Let's Go" and "Feel So Close." It's trendy for sure, but not in an annoying or particularly dated way. It helps that the tunes are upbeat in general, making it a tad easier to get into the game. There's also a bit of advertising in the game during some of the events (mostly logos) -- just to warn you. [embed]272531:53287:0[/embed] Before you jump into the sport of your choice, you have to do a few wakeraces first, then climbing and so on until you unlock all six activities. In other words, it's a medium-paced trickle that doesn't take more than an hour to complete, and just straddles the line of frustratingly slow and acceptable crescendo. Similar to the middling pacing, Rivals attempts to build a world of strange characters and "teams" that litter the miniature story, which comprises of three factions: the Eagle Legion (spartan-like), the Wolf Clan (tribal), and the Viper Network (futuristic hackers). If you've played Dance Central before you'll have a clue as to what the characterizations are like. While the characters never really stood out for me, the world is convincingly beautiful. I love all of the vibrant colors used (particularly the neon green and bright blue hues for the water) in the game, and some of the events (like wakeracing) are particularly entrancing. Sometimes the universe is difficult to see during all the action, but similar to Nintendo's Wii Sport Resort island, I wouldn't mind visiting it myself. There are six sports included in all: wakeracing, rock climbing, target practice, soccer, bowling, and tennis (unlocked in that order). If you've been waiting for a follow-up to Waverace 64, the wake event in Rivals is similarly designed, and a ton of fun. The Kinect 2.0 actually works like a charm, allowing you to move your arms forward and backward to simulate the direction of handlebars. You can also lean to the sides for sharp turns, or lean forwards and backwards for flips. Speed boost power-ups are sprung by stomping or using voice commands (again, the option is great). That's pretty much it, and everything functioned as advertised without any frustration on my part. The track itself is also gorgeous and detailed, and even though I wish there were more power-ups and hazards outside of mines, it's fun to play based on the control scheme alone. Climbing is easily my favorite event, which I didn't expect in the slightest. All you have to do here is raise your arms above your head, and grab onto the appropriate hold with the correct hand, then pull down to raise yourself up. If there's a gap you need to clear, you can raise your torso or actually jump to have your character leap up the mountain in turn. You can also relive your most wildest American Gladiators fantasies by grabbing people and chucking them off the wall.  You'll look ridiculous doing it, but like wakeracing, the motion aspect actually works. There's a lot of strategic play involved, as only holding onto one hold will drain your stamina bar and cause you to fall, and sometimes you'll need to move fast to grab onto something. It's also extremely difficult to learn, and like playing Guitar Hero for the very first time, I legitimately felt like I was using a new control scheme and not just a gimmick. Target practice is also fun, and in an endearing move to lefties, you can use either hand for this one. All you have to do is point your finger or hand at the screen to move around an accurate reticle, and Rivals will automatically fire at targets. There's a light puzzle element involved, with numbers that you have to shoot in an increasing order for bonus points, or skull targets that cause a loss in score. You'll also have to occasionally dodge to the left or right to avoid turret fire. It's a simple, nuanced addition that makes everything feels more action-packed. Soccer, however, feels like a completely wasted opportunity by comparison. This is a one-on-one sport, involving passes and shots with your feet and head as you square off with a goalie, and on the other end, square off against a striker. While goal keeping is fun enough as you attempt to block shots with precision, shooting is a bit of a farce. You'll have to go through this elongated and boring process of shooting downfield against foosball-like defense, which just feels like a waste of time. The shots also aren't very accurate and not a good demonstration of the tech. For these reasons and more, I'll most likely never play it again.If you loved Wii Sports you'll love bowling, but it feels oddly out of place in an otherwise fast-paced sports title. It works as advertised, but it's very bare-bones, and also ridiculous to see a giant futuristic crowd cheer for a bowling match. In general, bowling feels like a completely underwhelming and throwaway (ha) addition -- like it was added in to pad the game. Lastly we have Tennis, which packs a lot more punch by comparison. Because the Kinect recognizes nearly every appendage, you'll be able to serve by throwing the ball up with your free hand, and whacking it with your dominant racket hand. The process is incredibly nuanced, as you can swing normally, or mix things up with top spins, backspins, and lobs. Even though you can't technically feel the impact of hits, contact has a definite weight to it, and the over-emphasized neon effects of slicing a ball help add more character to the proceedings. There's a limited amount of actual movement, but your arms will feel tired by the end. I got pretty into it in fact, sometimes swinging with two hands, which is by no means required. If any combination of those games sounds enticing to you, Kinect Sports Rivals offers up a ton of content to mess around with, including its own Hub app that collects all your scores, friendships, and leaderboard information. You can also submit photos, participate in ongoing challenges and events, start a rivalry, and customize your character with new clothing options. Local multiplayer will up your enjoyment considerably. Kinect Sports Rivals has an inexcusable amount of wasted space with bowling and soccer, but the other four activities are engaging, and the world is charming and appealing enough to win over most of the gamers who enjoyed Wii Sports. If you have a family who likes getting together and play games like this, go ahead and pull the trigger -- all other curious parties should wait for a sale to compensate for the weak activities.
Kinect Sports Review photo
A semi-middling rivalry
The original Kinect Sports for the Xbox 360 did exactly what it set out to to do. It didn't set the world on fire or reinvent gaming as we know it, but it showed that despite some gimmicky features, the Kinect actually w...


Kinect for Windows looks just like the Xbox One Kinect

Sans logo
Mar 28
// Dale North
The newly revealed Kinect for Windows sensor looks just like the Xbox One Kinect sensor, save for the removal of the Xbox One logo and the addition of a power cord. Well, there's a hub box, too. It connects to USB 3.0 and pow...
Disney Fantasia photo
Disney Fantasia

Harmonix reveals The Hollow region of Disney Fantasia

Also announces multiplayer mode and more music
Mar 24
// Conrad Zimmerman
Harmonix has released this trailer for Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, highlighting a new region of the game, The Hollow, where players will bring a forest environment to life through playing songs and interacting in the wor...

Play Kinect Sports Rivals and you may win $10,000

Plus a trip for two around the world
Mar 24
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
There's a big competition revolving around Kinect Sports Rivals, where the grand prize winner can win up to $10,000 in cash plus a trip to one of four destinations around the world: Bora Bora, China, Machu Picchu, or the Swi...
There Came an Echo photo
There Came an Echo

There Came an Echo set to bounce onto Xbox One

One reason to own a Kinect
Mar 01
// Darren Nakamura
You might remember There Came an Echo from its successful Kickstarter campaign about a year ago. If not, then here's a quick recap. Iridium Studios enjoyed one of the earliest Kickstarter videogame successes with its rhythm r...
Kinect Sports Rivals photo
Kinect Sports Rivals

Kinect Sports Rivals launches in April

From Rare
Feb 13
// Chris Carter
Microsoft has announced that Kinect Sports Rivals is coming this April on the Xbox One. The game will launch on April 8th in North America and April 11th in Europe, and it'll feature the following activities: Soccer, Tennis,...
Xbox One major update photo
Will let you manage storage space and show your controller's battery life
The first major system update for the Xbox One will arrive on February 11. It'll have a variety of feature improvements, a lot of which will be for behind-the-scenes stuff aimed at developers creating apps and games. For the ...

Harmonix photo

Rumor: Harmonix has a canceled Xbox One Kinect game

Corgi fighter?
Jan 20
// Dale North
Kotaku (well, Superannuation) did some digging and found that there is an unannounced Harmonix Xbox One Kinect game that probably is laying in some desk drawer somewhere. Their lead level designer, Rob Stokes, ...

Pizza Hut made $1M in four months through the Xbox 360

What is wrong with you people
Jan 09
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Pizza Hut's director of public relations, Doug Terfehr, has told Polygon that they've sold $1 million in pizzas through the Xbox 360 in four months. Doug goes on to say that they're "not done in" the gaming space, and the company is having ongoing conversations with other potential gaming partners. I think you all know exactly how I feel about this news.
Xbox One trolling photo
You *will* believe what happens next
Okay, this is a fun little trick. YouTuber Master of Luck has taken to playing Call of Duty: Ghosts with the Xbox Live Gamertag "Xbox Sign Out." In a multiplayer setting like this where players are prone to shouting each oth...

Intel's 3D cameras photo
Intel's 3D cameras

Intel pushing Kinect-like 3D cameras with new computers

Let the NSA build 3D models of you!
Jan 06
// Steven Hansen
Intel is pushing a 3D camera as part of its focus on "perceptual computing," technology like voice recognition, facial recognition, and gesture control, CNET reports. Partnerships with manufacturers like Acer, Asus, Dell, Fuj...
Kinect Sports Rivals photo
Kinect Sports Rivals

Impressions: Kinect Sports Rivals Preseason

Surprisingly not terrible
Nov 28
// Chris Carter
It's a crying shame to see Rare reduced to producing Kinect games. With so much talent and so many IPs ripe for the taking, Microsoft has reduced one of the best retro studios of all time to a motion control factory. But ever...
Xbox One photo
Xbox One

A handy list of Xbox One Kinect voice commands

Xbox, go home
Nov 25
// Jordan Devore
I could never keep the Kinect voice commands straight on Xbox 360 despite only ever knowing a few of them, and I'm not confident that I'll do much better with the new device for Xbox One. Something like this list would've hel...
Apple buys Kinect company photo
Apple buys Kinect company

Apple definitely bought the original Kinect company

Nov 25
// Joshua Derocher
Apple confirmed that they bought PrimeSense, the company behind the original Kinect, for $360 million dollars. A spokesmen told the BBC that "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not ...
Kinect has no x-ray specs photo
Kinect has no x-ray specs

Xbox One's Kinect can't see you naked, says Microsoft

But I can
Nov 21
// Steven Hansen
Did you see a penis in this video? It seems the above tech demo left some people concerned that the Xbox One's new, better Kinect would be able to see your genitals. People are (understandably) rather paranoid about their pr...
Jimmy Fallon photo
Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon and Will Forte race on waves with Xbox One

Spoiler: Jimmy loses
Nov 21
// Darren Nakamura
Last week on Late Night we saw Jimmy Fallon and Ice-T kick some robots around with the PlayStation 4 for its launch. Naturally, the Xbox One couldn't go without being demonstrated for its launch week, so Blain Howard visited...

My first attempt at using Xbox One's voice commands

Xbox, listen up
Nov 19
// Dale North
After reading up a bit, I tried to see how I'd fare at controlling the Xbox One with voice commands. Above, you'll find a video of me trying out various system commands for about five minutes. As you'll see, it works fairly ...

Review: Xbox One

Nov 19 // Dale North
Xbox OneManufacturer: MicrosoftRelease Date: November 22, 2013MSRP: $499 Design The Xbox One sports clean lines and has some sharp accents while still managing to keep things simple. The mix of black matte, gloss finish and the cooling slat pattern are sleek, and the trim work on its face is attractive. But it still looks like a set-top box -- a really nice set-top box. This makes sense, as Microsoft is positioning the system to be the centerpiece of the world's living rooms. The Xbox One is a hefty brick of a game system, and it looks oversized when compared to other recent game consoles. At 13-inches wide and just over three inches tall, weighing in at over seven pounds, the Xbox One will hog up more space in your entertainment center than you might like it to. And that's not including its large power brick and its thick cabling. When you add the system's depth to the lengths of the cable jacks for the Kinect and power cord, you'll need shelving 14-inches deep.  The Kinect sensor matches the Xbox One's design with its black gloss and matte mix and its matching glowing Xbox logo.   Specifications An eight-core AMD CPU is the heart of Microsoft's powerful new system, supported by a 853 MHz GPU and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. Games will be installed via a slot-loading Blu-ray drive, with data going onto a 500GB hard disk. For connectivity, there's both Gigabit Ethernet and 8012.11 a/b/g/n WiFi (2.4 and 5 GHz) with WiFi Direct support. And with three USB 3.0 ports, a digital audio port, the Kinect sensor port, and HDMI input and output ports, there's plenty of places to plug things in. The Xbox One is fairly quiet, though it's never completely silent. Most of the time it'll emit a faint whirring, but when some games start, it'll crescendo to a full roar for a few seconds. Even the power brick makes a noise with its own cooling fan.  The Xbox One seems to run hot. When games are running, the unit is pretty warm to the touch, especially around its cooling vents. This system needs plenty of room for ventilation, too. We had to pull our test unit out of a cabinet after finding that it was hot to the touch, even with about two inches of clearance around the top and sides. Even on standby some heat comes out of the top vents.    Controller While the Xbox One controller looks a bit like the Xbox 360 controller, Microsoft made so many improvements that they seem worlds apart in use. They did an incredible job of tweaking and refining just about every aspect of the Xbox 360 controller, so much so that it's hard to use it now after having this Xbox One controller for about a week. The new analog sticks are fantastic. Their dead zone has been diminished, they move so much easier now, and the textured edges are perfect for increased grip for high-action games like shooters or racers. The new d-pad is click-y and responsive, as are the new shoulder buttons. The new triggers are outstanding with their upturned ends and their rolled shape, letting your index fingers rest naturally on them. I'm still enamored with their smooth travel and their dampened end strike even after dozens of hours of use. The trigger haptic feedback impresses in Forza Motorsport 5 -- a buzzing in your fingertips lets you know you're pushing your vehicle hard. Around back, the grips have been redesigned, making this controller much more comfortable to hold than its predecessor. The removal of screw holes and seams on the back and a tweaking of weight distribution also add to the comfort factor. A removable battery compartment panel (it takes two AA batteries) fits beautifully flush with the rear surface. Microsoft also ditched the start and back buttons, changing them for view and menu buttons. The only oversight in the design of the Xbox One controller we could find is how much noise it makes during use. The d-pad makes a sharp clicking noise under heavy use, and the stems of the analog sticks cause a loud knocking against the edges of the ports they sit in. Having multiple players in one room using Xbox One controllers adds a fair bit of noise! I prefer the symmetrical placement of the analog sticks (see our PlayStation 4 review), but I'm still extremely impressed with the Xbox One controller. It needs to win some kind of award for the most improved piece of gaming tech ever created.   Kinect Sensor The included Xbox One Kinect sensor is tethered to the system with a long, hefty cable. This cable continually transmits data from Kinect 2's 1080p camera, motion sensors, IR sensors, and microphones, enabling the system to instantly act on motion and voice commands. The camera's view is extremely wide, allowing for small rooms to get proper coverage. The Kinect sensor is immediately useful out of the box. After being told to recognize a user's face, they can log in by simply walking into the room. From that point on, the system is always scanning for that person's presence, and given the proper command ("Xbox, sign in"), the system will switch to their settings.  The Xbox One supports a few UI gesture commands using Kinect's sensors. Users can clench their hand to grip corners of some apps to zoom in and out, for example. Pulling two fists together from a distance can bring the user back to their home screen. While these commands are smart, they're a bit fiddly, and likely more difficult than picking up the controller to accomplish the same task. Kinect's microphones are always on, waiting for the next voice command. By simply calling out "Xbox," the system readies its voice recognition, letting users start games, switch to applications, video conference, and more. When it works, it's incredibly handy. It's so nice to be able to pause a television show from the other room by simply calling out, for example. The problem is that the voice recognition, while initially impressive, lets you down sometimes. We've had several instances of the system completely ignoring repeated commands. The most used ones, like "Xbox, go Home," or "Xbox, go back," are pretty reliable, while ones that launch specific games and apps have a lower success rate. In completely quiet rooms, with a fully projected voice spoken three feet away, facing the Kinect directly, commands sometimes failed. In another test room, at only two feet away, recognition was more reliable, though never perfect. In one sitting, the Xbox One refused to take my "Xbox, record that" command until I shut the game down completely and restarted it. If the voice commands aren't consistently reliable, users are going to pick controller commands over them, which would defeat the purpose completely. I've found that a hybrid works best in my office and home. For example, while playing games, your hands are busy, so calling out "Xbox, record that" makes a lot of sense. But I'd rather use the controller to navigate the dash. The Kinect sensor is also a high-powered IR blaster and receiver, which makes it able to control just about any A/V device in your living room. During initial setup, Xbox One asks for the make and model of your television and other components. From there, the system pulls remote codes from the cloud to have Kinect control them all. The IR control works like a charm, provided that the system understood the voice command first.   User Interface Microsoft has been all over the map when it comes to user interfaces for the Xbox brand, but it looks like they've finally settled on a UI that looks clean, modern, and uncluttered. The home screen has a main tile for the currently running application or game, and four smaller tiles under it represent the most recently run applications, allowing for quick switching. And aside from a profile bar and a few shortcuts, as well as three boxes to show recommended content, that's it. Nice and simple. Pressing the Xbox button on the controller will bring you back to this screen at any time. Scrolling left from the main screen (using either the analog stick or the bumper buttons) brings you to a field for pins, which are Xbox's version of shortcuts and bookmarks. The screen to the right of the home view is where you can purchase content from Xbox Live, including games, movies, television shows, and music. Logging in, users will find their own unique settings, apps, and pins on their Xbox One dash. They're even welcomed by name. Any other user in the room can identify themselves to Kinect to have the home screen immediately change to theirs.  Microsoft built in enough power under the hood to support multitasking, making it easy to jump from, say, a game to an application. For example, you could be playing Forza Motorsport 5, and then leave it to open Internet Explorer. Through the Xbox One's multitasking power, Forza 5 will stay running in the background as you do your browsing; switching between the two apps would be instantaneous. In my last week with the system, I've grown to really count on this ability to jump between two applications, to the point that I'm not sure how I got along without this ability before. It makes the Xbox One feel more like an environment and less like a simple game box -- in a good way. As an extension of this, Xbox One's snap ability lets you take certain apps and snap them to the right side of the screen. For example, Internet Explorer could be snapped while watching television, allowing you to browse and enjoy your favorite program at the same time. You could play a game and listen to music at the same time, too.  With as much power as the Xbox One has under the hood, we were surprised to see several instances of user-interface lag. We saw the Xbox One's loading spinning wheel so many times that we lost count, with it popping up in everything from friends list navigation to applications opening. Switching between open tasks is always respectably snappy, but several other aspects lacked that speed.    Online, Social, Sharing, and Broadcasting Calling out "Xbox, record that" has the Xbox One grabbing the last 30 seconds of gameplay as a file, which can then be shared with other Xbox Live users. An app called Upload Studio lets you take game recordings and edit them, adding voice overs, inserting pictures, or themes, and then exporting to be shared. At launch, these videos can only be shared with Xbox Live users. Microsoft aims to have sharing to other social sites, like Facebook and YouTube, set up by next year.  [embed]265900:51474:0[/embed] Similarly, broadcasting of live gameplay via Twitch will not be available at launch. Microsoft is aiming for an early 2014 launch of this feature. As a workaround, clips can be uploaded to Microsoft's SkyDrive from launch. Once uploaded, the clips can be shared from any computer. It's another step, but it works fine. Friends management and tracking has been upgraded with Xbox One. A new feed gives a real-time view of what your friends are doing on Xbox Live, showing both Xbox 360 and Xbox One players in one view. You can mark friends as favorites to make them easier to track among your friends list. Microsoft has done away with confirmations and requests -- simply add a friend and they'll appear in your feed, much like following a person on Twitter.    Connectivity A new Xbox One SmartGlass App lets you navigate the home screen with your fingertips on Windows 8, iOS, and Android devices. We used a beta version of the app on a Microsoft Surface to flip through our friends list, respond to messages, and browse our content. These functions work wonderfully, making SmartGlass a fine companion to the whole Xbox Live experience. A rudimentary control mode found in the beta let us try to control the Xbox One via SmartGlass, but it didn't work reliably. Swiping motions are to serve as a stand-in for controller input, while touchscreen virtual buttons did the job of physical controller buttons. Again, neither worked well, but the app is still in development. Microsoft plans to have SmartGlass working as a remote for all devices in your living room through Xbox One in a future update.    Disk Management and Installation The Xbox One's Blu-ray disc drive feeds the 500GB internal hard disk with games, as installations are required. To boot the game, you'll still need to keep the disc in the drive, even after installation. If you try to start a game without the disc, the system will ask you to insert the disc or buy digital rights from the online store. With some games, gameplay can be started before installation is finished.  With new games sometimes filling Blu-ray discs -- and when you add in the space the OS and other apps take -- the 500GB drive will likely only hold a handful of games at one time. Thankfully, Microsoft plans to add external storage support at a later date.    Video and Audio The Xbox One aims to be the hub of the world's living room with its HDMI pass-through capabilities, letting users plug in their cable or satellite boxes to have the system acting as a go-between, handling everything from channel navigation to volume control. Between the Xbox One's voice recognition capabilities and the Kinect sensor's IR blasters, you can control just about all of your television-watching experience without ever having to pick up a remote control. To begin watching television, you only need to say "Xbox, watch TV." As we mentioned earlier, Xbox One's voice recognition is good, but it isn't reliable. Our tests showed that while voice commands would bring up Xbox One's television guide -- called OneGuide -- reliably navigating through it wasn't as easy. We had mixed results in trying to get the channel to change by calling out its station name. It was just easier to pick up the controller to manually scroll through the listings more often than not. Thankfully, some of the most useful commands were the most reliable. Calling out to have the Xbox One take over transport controls worked well. It's really convenient to be able to pause the program you're watching with your voice when the door bell rings, for example. Having the Xbox One turn the volume up or down via voice command was too slow, but being able to ask it to mute was nice and quick.  The Xbox One supports some of the bigger streaming video services, like Netflix and Hulu, at launch with new apps, though my personal favorite, Crunchyroll, is not yet available. Any of these apps can be added to OneGuide as channels through what Microsoft calls App Channels. So, for example, your Hulu Plus queue could be an App Channel, listed right alongside your television listings in OneGuide. Finally, Microsoft's Xbox Video and Xbox Music apps let you rent or purchase television shows and movies or stream music on Xbox One.   Conclusion The Xbox One is a powerful PC connected to a cutting-edge sensor array that handles every living-room duty, from television watching to video streaming to web browsing, and it does it all with a multitasking UI that supports voice and motion control. This has to be the most full-featured game console offering ever brought to market. It does so many things that it's hard to keep track of them all! A few key features, like social sharing and game broadcasting, are not ready for launch, making the Xbox One feel somewhat incomplete, especially when compared to its main competitor. All of these technologies and features for Xbox One are pointless if there aren't great games to play on it. While future offerings look promising, the Xbox One's launch library is somewhat lacking. There are plenty of interesting experiences to be had, but only a few of the offerings are truly notable at this point. It's clear that Microsoft doesn't have this generation's Halo yet.  The way we see it, gamers likely have a good all-in-one gaming/media box now with the Xbox 360. If you're dying to add voice-controlled television channel surfing to the mix, the Xbox One will definitely get you there. The console will also give you access to a couple of decent launch titles, and a fantastic new controller to play them with. But you're going to have to make the call on whether these things are worth $499 to you. If not, wait. The Xbox One will still be around when you're ready.
Xbox One review photo
Microsoft's Xbox 360 grew from being a simple game console to an all-in-one entertainment box over the last eight years or so, somehow squeezing in everything from multiplayer gaming to streaming movies and television. And no...

Kinect photo

Privacy Cover for Xbox One covers Kinect's camera

Proving once more where there's a need, there's a product
Nov 13
// Conrad Zimmerman
Are you among one those who harbor deep reservations about what the Kinect camera will be capturing in your living room? Afraid that Microsoft will gather tons of personal data and sell it to the highest bidder? And would usi...
Rare photo

Rare will continue to focus on Kinect for the time being

Teases that 'there are always games we'd love to build'
Nov 11
// Jordan Devore
Rare's Kinect games aren't showing signs of slowing down as much as some of us would probably like that to happen so the studio concentrates its efforts elsewhere. "When you look at the Kinect Sports franchise we've sold ove...
Xbox One All-in-One photo
Wanna watch some sports on your TV?
Marc Whitten, Corporate Vice President for Xbox, and Yusuf Mehdi, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer for Xbox, released a 12 minute video showing off Xbox One All-in-One. They kick back on the couch and command the Xbox ...

Xbox One and television: working together

Nov 08 // Dale North
TV is waiting for you to watch it: That HDMI passthru port has a television signal continually streaming into the Xbox One, waiting for you to watch it. Simply call out that you'd like to watch television and the Kinect will understand you, instantly pulling up the feed from your cable box. The Xbox One UI runs in the background quietly while you're watching the boob tube, meaning that users remain fully connected to their friends and the rest of the world.  This means that everything that Xbox Live is connected to is available, even while watching your favorite game shows or crappy nighttime dramas. Game invites, Skype invitations, and more are visible during television watching. If you're popular, expect to get more pop-ups than a shady porn site! Your wish is Kinect's command: You won’t need a remote control to control your television with Xbox One. Voice commands let you do everything from turning up the volume to changing channels. You can simply call out the name of the network or program you’d like to watch if you’d like.  This works because the Kinect sensor doubles as a massive IR device that blasts out infrared codes to every corner of the room. The signals bounce off walls and return to the devices in the room, even if they’re in shelves or behind glass. This lets users completely do away with remote controls.  Upon initial setup, Xbox One’s system looks up your components in an online database and plugs in their respective command data. The Xbox One does all the heavy lifting, taking your voice command and translating it to IR that your devices can understand.  Channel and content surfing becomes even easier with the One Guide app. It looks like your standard DVR/cable box channel guide at first glance, but all of its functions can be navigated via voice. Numbers, channel names, program names and more work as valid commands. Users can ask Kinect “What’s on Discovery?” to see its listings, and then say “Watch this channel” to tune to it, for example.  Beyond television listings, One Guide also lists programming from other apps and services, letting you navigate streaming content alongside television listings. For example, Hulu Plus has app channels for popular shows and movies. Even non-video applications can be saved as an app channel. We saw an example where a photo gallery in Microsoft’s Sky Drive was saved as a channel. Selecting it in One Guide lets it act like a channel of programming, showing a slide show of the photos.  The experience can't be 100 percent hands free, though. Basic commands, like transport control, channel changing,  and the like, will all be available via voice controls. You will  have to dig the remotes out for deeper control of your DVR and cable box, though.  Aw Snap: Of course, you can choose to filter these notifications or shut them off completely. But fellow internet addicts will enjoy Xbox One's snap feature, which lets you pin just about any app to the right side of the screen. Xbox One's notification feed app will keep you connected while you watch your crap syndicated reruns. I'm going to use Twitter while I watch reality cooking shows. You can search for hot pictures of Kari Byron in a snapped Internet Explorer app while watching MythBusters if you'd like. Snapping will be a game changer for television watchers with an internet problem.  Sports fans are going to freak out: I'm not a sports fan. At all. But even I was extremely impressed with Xbox One's NFL app. Through Microsoft's partnership with the NFL, exclusive content is available for users through this app. Highlights are constantly being pushed to the servers from the NFL, and are instantly available in the app on Xbox One.  Sports nuts will enjoy snapping the NFL app while watching television, letting them watch one game while keeping track of others. The app keeps track of your favorites as well as highlights from around the league. Users could watch games live while tracking how plays impact their fantasy league in real time in the NFL app. ...if you like TV, that is: I'm not much of a television watcher, so I don't expect to use a lot of this. But the level of integration is impressive enough that I expect that Xbox One will change the way a lot of people watch television. If Microsoft is still out to own the living room, the TV integration for Xbox One is a big step toward that.  
Xbox One and TV photo
Watch TV in a new way
You probably won't buy an Xbox One to watch television, but television watching seems to be pretty neat with all the integration and applications Microsoft have worked into their new console.  They want you to always hav...

Xbox One's Kinect: impressive control, instant access

Nov 08 // Dale North
Easiest sign in ever: Much has been said about the all-seeing Kinect sensor camera. I saw the benefits of its always-on status immediately in the demonstration as Microsoft's Jeff Henshaw was able to log into the Xbox One by just... well, being there. He pulled a cloth cover off of the Kinect sensor and the Xbox One immediately saw him and logged him in, changing the screen to reflect his settings, and populating the menu with his apps and data. He didn't have to say or do anything for this to happen.  Everything you would need, from his most recently used apps to his friends list, were automatically listed up on his home screen. Henshaw's most recently played game, Forza Motorsport 5, was placed front and center for ease of access. In the pin area, all of his favorite apps, sites, and music were placed.  A technology called beam forming lets Kinect triangulate the source of spoken commands. Whitten says that the beam narrows down to read a width of about five inches -- about the width of a mouth -- and this lets Kinect associate a command with a face and skeleton so that it 'knows' which person in the room spoke the command. To demonstrate, Microsoft's Jose Pinero entered the mock living room. By simply saying "Xbox, show my stuff," the system switched the home screen from Marc's to Jose's, populating it with his favorites, pins, and more.  Users can go to any Xbox One in the world and sign in to have their preferences come up this same way. Getting into/out of the game: Microsoft wants users to be able to get into their games as fast as possible. A demonstration had us jumping back into a stopped game of Forza Motorsport 5 from the home screen by simply calling out to the Xbox One. It loaded instantly, right where the user left off on last play. This is even more impressive when you consider that the user was logged out previously.  Of course, not every game would load this quickly. They have it so that the last game you played sits in this hot state, ready to be loaded back up instantly.  Getting out of a game is just as easy. While Forza 5 was open, we called out to the Xbox to switch to Internet Explorer, and in an instant the browser was loaded. We flipped through other apps to further test the systems reaction speed. Every other app -- from television watching to Skype to the music player -- loaded instantly upon voice request. No lag, no load times.  This works because the Xbox One was designed to run apps and games in separate spaces, with each having its own CPU cores and memory space. Your last game will always load quickly for this reason. As for apps, the last few you've used will continue to be at the ready.  Putting the Game DVR features to the test: I played a bit of Forza 5, doing my best to keep clean lines to impress those watching. Getting to a point that I felt a bit proud of, I was able to call out "Xbox, record that" to have the system record what I was doing. From here, the system gave me the option to share this clip or edit it.  We took the clip into the Upload Studio app. From there, trimming of the file, from 30 seconds to the last full five minutes, was possible. We pulled up a picture-in-picture effect preset and then filled the second box with taunting, using the Kinect camera. Other options let you add voice overs for walkthroughs, or add skins to your finished video.  We saved the video, and it encoded very quickly. Being on a broadband connection, it also uploaded to the Xbox servers very quickly.  The whole process -- capturing, editing, and uploading -- is very quick and simple. Snap: I think that the ability to "snap" apps to the right side of the screen while watching television or playing games will be popular with Xbox One owners. You're free to tell the system to snap just about any application to the side by simply telling it to do so vocally. You could snap an internet browser window to view a FAQ while playing an RPG, or the music player while playing a racing game. I like the idea of having Twitter snapped to the side while watching television so I can keep an eye on things.  It really works: No one likes the idea of having to continually yell at your game system to get it to do things, hoping it will understand your commands. So many have expressed similar concerns since the Xbox One's announcement.   I'm glad to report that the Kinect sensor and all the tech powering it makes controlling the Xbox One seem really simple. This was an in-house demo that Microsoft conducted, but I did get to try it out for myself, so it wasn't like it was scripted or controlled.  Everything we tried seemed to work beautifully. Let's hope things work as well when we get our Xbox One systems home later this month. 
Xbox One Kinect photo
Hands... er, voice-on with Xbox One
I had a chance to see exactly how Xbox One's interface works with the Kinect sensor in a demonstration last week. After seeing several examples and even trying it out for myself, I came away impressed at how well the voice co...


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