Will the Xbox One Be the Center of Your Home Theater?

At the recent press conference announcing the next generation Xbox, the "Xbox One," Microsoft made it clear that it wants the new Xbox to be the "center of your home theater." The company has added satellite and cable box control and the ability to play Blu-ray Discs to the system's vast array of movie and TV apps. The Xbox One also has a beefed up Kinect sensor (for voice and gesture control) and central processor. All of these new additions and improvements just might be enough to put the Xbox One at the top of my 2013 holiday wish-list.

The Xbox One can seamlessly switch between playing a game or streaming a movie on Netflix and watching TV thanks to HDMI passthrough. Voice and gesture controls can be used to display the program guide or to tune into a specific show or TV channel. Ask the Xbox One "what's on HBO?" and the channel guide will highlight HBO. You can tune to a specific channel or show by saying its name ("watch NBC" or "watch Survivor") and use up/down hand gestures to scroll through channels while in the program guide. Gestures can also be used for scrolling on Web pages in Internet Explorer and for pinching and stretching pictures, windows, and pages in tablet-like fashion.

The brains behind gesture control is Microsoft's Kinect sensor, which "sees" your body and tracks movements during game play or when you're using gestures to scroll through TV channels. While the current Kinect sensor does a decent job of following gestures, Microsoft redesigned the new Kinect to do a better job of sensing detail, even in the dark.

At the press conference, Microsoft demonstrated Kinect's improved sensitivity to detail. The new sensor can see the hair on your chest or the stitches on your buttonholes and even detect what's going on under your skin. It knows when you are contracting your abs, standing off-balance, or jumping in the air. It can also determine the direction of a jab and how much force is behind it. Most remarkably, the Kinect can detect changes in your face that are imperceptible to the human eye and measure your heart rate for fitness games. While the improved sensitivity to detail will be most advantageous in games, it should also help with more accurate gesture control.

The original Kinect sensor had a VGA camera for facial recognition and was used in a few games for video capture. The new Kinect sensor has a high-definition camera that is used for recognition and to view the world pictorially, which means the camera can be used for apps like Skype video conferencing (new to Xbox). With the extreme wide-angle capabilities of the camera, everyone in the room can now have a conversation with friends and family that live far away.

If you want to control the Xbox One in a more traditional manner, you can use the Xbox game controller or SmartGlass on your smartphone or tablet to control your TV. However, don't throw away your remotes just yet. There was no mention of basic home theater controls such as volume, input selection, and so forth.

Another new feature is "Snap." Similar to the split screen in Windows 8 for computers, Snap displays a sidebar alongside the main screen so you can keep an eye on a baseball game while playing Halo, Google information about a TV show, or Skype with friends while watching the same show.

The Xbox One will be "always connected." Like a Roku box, it is never entirely switched off, which allows for constant updates of apps and faster startup. When you walk into the room, the console will recognize you ("Hello Dave"), sign into your Xbox accounts—including corresponding Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, and other subscription accounts—and display a personalized home page so you can easily find your favorite apps and channels.

Along with the news about the Xbox One, Microsoft Studios announced plans to produce videos and a live-action TV series based on the popular video game Halo. To show that they're serious, they've recruited a producer you may have heard of: Steven Spielberg.

The improvements add much to the entertainment capabilities of Xbox. With increased power, constant updates, and the ability to track subtle body movements, we can imagine that gameplay will become even more real and exciting. Without listing all of the new features brought to the various games, I have to note one remarkable feature: Xbox One will be able to track live football games and update your Fantasy Football team stats in real time.

Sony will be releasing the PlayStation4 during the holidays with an emphasis on gaming. If the idea of a multifaceted entertainment hub appeals to you, the Xbox One might be worth a look...even if you don't play video games.

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COMMENTS
notabadname's picture

Other than its lack of ble-ray, the Original XBox 360 has been the perfectcenter of my home theater. It's great interface and incorporation of Vudu, Netflix, HBOGo, Hulu, and youtube, have made it my one-stop place for streaming. Adding a blu-ray and all the other "smart" TV features will make it the ultimate, upgradeable all-in-one. This makes any TV truly smart and it uses an RF remote.. All this, and games. I'm sold.

zimm25's picture

I remember reading a column here a few months ago about how great the Xbox was as a media streamer. The problem is that it costs $10 for the perk of using it as such. I have the Xbox for gaming and sadly only use it for that one purpose. A lot of my gaming time has moved to my other devices, so unless Microsoft can eliminate that Xbox Gold fee, I'll never own an Xbox One or use my 360 to stream anything.

notabadname's picture

XBox live, at most, is $60 per year, and can be found discounted for as little as $36 per year. That is no more than paying for an updated operating system on a computer each year. And the interface and access to all aspects of the XBox ecosystem is well worth the minor coin. No other system is so well integrated, secure and robust. Contrast that to the regularly hacked, free, Sony ecosystem, with more than one incidence of loosing secure account data. If I can pay thousands for premium TVs, audio components, blu-ray collections, this $5 per month seems quite fair. As with other HT hardware, you get what you pay for.

jnemesh's picture

You sound like a MS employee with your derision of Sony. "regularly hacked"? Really?

notabadname's picture

However, they have had more than one major incidence, the worst caused their whole network to go off-line for 44 days. I am not a MS employee. I have just been able to make direct comparisons between the two since my friend and neighbor had the PS and I have XBox. We both came to agree that XBox live ecosystem and software was considerably better, and more reliable.

http://abcnews.go.com/technology/t/blogEntry?id=14722179

jnemesh's picture

First, everyone here needs to realize that the Kinect is now REQUIRED to be connected and CALIBRATED for the Xbox One to work AT ALL. This was problematic enough for theater owners and installers when Kinect was USB 2.0, but for a price ($499 MSRP), you could get a fairly reliable USB 2.0 over cat5 extender to work with it.

This will not work for the new Xbox One's Kinect. It uses USB 3.0, and there are NO SOLUTIONS for extending a USB 3.0 cable from an equipment closet to the TV location, where you need to place the Kinect! So...you will HAVE to place your new Xbox on a shelf below your TV. Since it controls your cable box, you will then have to run a long HDMI cable from your equipment closet TO the Xbox, then another long HDMI from the Xbox to the AVR in the closet! This is in ADDITION to the HDMI running from the AVR to the TV. If you are using cat5/cat6 HDMI extenders, this gets expensive quick! Also, you will need to use another couple conductors on another cat5 or cat6 cable to extend IR from the Xbox back to the cable box so the console can control the cable box.

All of this effort will then give Microsoft the ability to perform facial recognition on everyone in the room. If the system does not recognize a face, it will then prompt that person to "register" their face into the system. They are even bragging over at Microsoft that the Kinect is so sensitive, it will even be able to monitor your heartbeat! Yeah, that isn't creepy at all, is it?

While the ability to integrate cable TV with your game console is interesting, I find it funny that they are:

1.) Using a KLUDGE to accomplish this, HDMI input and IR blaster? Why can't they use CableCard and ditch the separate box (and monthly fee)??

2.) Pushing "Live TV" integration at a time when people are turning away from cable completely, and getting their entertainment from Netflix and Hulu, among others.

3.) Pushing TV and video functionality over games! The 360 was a GAME CONSOLE, first and foremost. The video features were just the gravy! Yes, many of us do use our Xbox 360s quite a bit for video, but we didn't BUY the console to play Netflix! We bought the console to PLAY GAMES! Microsoft seems to have forgotten what business they are in with the Xbox brand!

Finally, let's look at the other DRM Microsoft infested the console with. First, despite the mealy mouthed doublespeak by Microsoft executives, the console IS an "always on" internet device. It will periodically check in with the servers to verify that your account is current and to validate that any installed games on your console are associated with your account. If you don't have internet access, or your access is unavailable for over a day, YOU CAN NOT PLAY ANYTHING ON YOUR CONSOLE! It doesn't matter if the game is a "single player" game, or if you are just playing Madden with a friend on the couch. The console MUST be online, or you can not play! This is a RADICAL shift from how things currently work, but MS is trying to play it off like it's no big deal...after all, your vacuum cleaner won't work if the power is out, right? (an actual MS employee said that, he is no longer with the company, but the mindset is right there for all to see)

Any games you buy, you will install onto the console's hard drive. The game will then be "registered" to your account. Lend the game to a friend, and he will be prompted to buy the license to play the game for a "nominal" fee. (any bets that this fee will be at least 90% of the cost of a new copy? Anyone?) Forget borrowing games, and forget being able to rent games. Forget being able to sell your games as you please. At BEST, you will have to sell your games through Microsoft or a Microsoft authorized dealer. You take in your game to be sold, it's then "de-registered" from your account, your game is remotely wiped off your hard drive, and then the game can be resold, with Microsoft and the game publisher taking a 90% cut!

Between the privacy issues surrounding the Kinect and the DRM infestation that Microsoft is trying to pawn off on unsuspecting users, I am recommending that EVERYONE stay the heck away from this console!

I am anxiously waiting to see what Sony announces with the PS4, but all they have to do to get my money is NOT block used game sales or rentals, and NOT require the Move camera peripheral be attached. We will see....but one thing is for sure, Microsoft is NOT welcome in MY living room!

notabadname's picture

I bet the "fee" will follow the current industry model, which is that off-line play with a borrowed game costs nothing. But if you borrow or buy a used game and try to play it on-line in Multiplayer, the fee will be (and has been on many titles) $10. (About 17%)

This has been driven by the used game market and the distributors, not MS. The producers have lost so much revenue from GameStop and others recycling a million used games across several million users that they are trying to make the cost to the consumer of buying a new game a real consideration over the used copy. But I know of no used games that don't work for single player, off-line use, free of the "fee". I prefer this model to the potential for every game, even new, to have a separate pay-to-play Multiplayer component. I personally don't mind each game disc having only one on-line license included for the original buyer to use.

jnemesh's picture

Do you really think that MS and game publishers are going to allow you to install a FULL COPY of a game off of someone else's disc and be able to run it independently for $10? What are you smoking?

notabadname's picture

Yes, I believe that is as possible and as likely as it has been for other software apications. My last Microsoft Office had DRM that allowed it to be loaded on more than one computer, but only run on one. If you launched it on a second computer, it simply informed you that it could not open because it was in use on another computer. It is very easy to implement this on the XBox, and is no more restrictive than the physical disc which can only be used by one user at a time. And I bet, if you liked the game, you could pay to "unlock" it with no need to go out and buy a physical disc. The $10 fee would still apply, as it already does today, if the second user only borrowed the disc and wanted to play the multiplayer content on Live. I am also quite sure this DRM is driven by the content creators, not MS or Sony. Microsoft does not own EA or Activision. It is the creators trying to implement a stop to all the losses coming from the used game business. You can be sure the model will be followed industry wide.

Steve Caliendo's picture

These are not subtle changes MS wants to impose and the way they are brushing it off like it is no big deal should tell you everything you need to know---win for the industry and MS, loss for gamers.

If Sony goes a similar route with the PS4 regarding used game sales, we are all in trouble monetarily. My fear is that this is probably what will happen since MS surely knows that if only they take this approach, Sony will be the big winner this generation.

xgrifter's picture

jnemesh why don't you go and watch the the xbox one release atfter

reading your wall of text your info is incorrect on something
like the always on internet, cable card sorry to many cable company's
still don't use them I have Cox Cable they already said they don't plan to use them ever in my area, and I believe that about 90% of the gamers that have the 360 and kinect both nexted to the tv.

Sony's game studios chief, Shuhei Yoshida, told reporters that any requirement for users to register a game online in order to play it would be left to game publishers. Sony won't require that."
online pass fee's anyone

jnemesh's picture

So, I am not sure why your local Cox franchise is not supporting them. They have a federal MANDATE to offer them:

http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/cablecards

Everything else I posted in my "wall of text" is accurate. Sources include the actual MS event, and post-event interviews with Microsoft executives. Google is your friend...use it to learn more about the reasons you should avoid the Xbone at all costs!

triforce7's picture

Sorry, but jnemesh pretty much nailed it. MS is trying to tell you that it isn't always online, but the fact that it checks in constantly over the internet does make it an always-online console. The potentially neat features of the Xbox One are marred in typical MS fashion by numerous faults (what MS also calls 'features').

notabadname's picture

I am not sure what people are expecting for a device designed to be a Smart, all-in-one Media Center, Gaming device and controller of our entertainment system. Who really is going to buy a system that streams music, HBOGo, Hulu, Vudu, Netflix, Youtube and a LONG list of other "connected" services, all of which have regular APP updates unto themselves, and not expect this to be connected, always, to the internet. It is really the commentary I would expect on a bit-torrent/ PeerToPeer site, where the talk is of how everyone is concerned about not being able to use their ripped copies of games and music. An undeniable, thriving, industry of piracy is what is driving the Game, Music and Movie industries to use DRM to protect their properties. This is not Microsoft or Sony's fault. It is the fault of the thieves among us, unwilling to pay for the works of others. This is a requirement being pushed by distributors before they will license and their property for distribution onto these systems. Anyone who thinks EA, Disney, Activision, etc., won't put the same DRM requirements for their software titles on Sony as they do on Xbox is deluded.

And if you really think that Xbox is going to be sending video feeds (and heart rate data) from your living room to Bill Gate's living room so he can watch us all play, you are seriously mistaken (and paranoid).

jnemesh's picture

Because the PS3 and Xbox 360 ALSO offer all of this content, and yet, if I JUST WANT TO PLAY A SINGLE PLAYER GAME, it does NOT have to be connected!

notabadname's picture

The facts are far less "dramatic" than the naysayers may like.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/gaming/2013/06/06/microsoft-xbox-one-...

jnemesh's picture

Really, a USA Today article is your source? Here, it's nice and official now, go read:

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/06/microsoft-details-xbox-one-used-ga...

notabadname's picture

So ARSTechnica's dissemination of Microsoft's press release is more credible? Whatever. Your remark is truly laughable. They say the same thing, from the same press release, with Microsoft as the source. And both make my points that I've been stating. Microsoft (or Sony)) are not driving the DRM and whether you can resell or give your game away. And with some restrictions, you will be able to do both. Most importantly is being able to allow 10 users/accounts (Your "Family") acces to your game, so kids and multiple Xboxes can use the game (one at a time, as with a physical disc). And as I stated, the game will work for a full 24 hours with no connectivity. That means NOT always connected (if you can't make the logic leap there). The way I see it, this is an entertainment industry. We pay for a broadway show and accept that we can't pass the tickets on after our use, or for a Movie ticket. We also pay for digital ownership of Movies on VuDu or Amazon that are non-transferable, even though they cost the same generally as the physical disc at Walmart. And since you play XBox, perhaps you have already bought games from the XBox Live Marketplace. Those are also non-transferable, not even within your own home to family member's accounts. And plenty of PC games, as well as software Apps like Adobe Suite, have followed this digital download model for years. And we see the same with iTunes, which does allow numerous devices in a household to share and play the software, but there is no transfer of Angry Birds HD to your best friend who lives down the street.

Tis is the way of the future, and has been going that way for some time while you were apparently napping.. And it is being driven by the creators and distributors, not the Hardware manufacturer. Simply accept it, or choose not to play. But blaming Microsoft or Sony misses the mark. It is we, the consumer (as a whole), who has brought this onto ourselves, with rampant piracy and copying of software and media. I know more than one person out there who buys a blu ray, makes a perfect digital copy - "because it is needed to protect their purchase" under fair use, then they sell their disc on eBay as used weeks later. And I know of plenty of gamers too who hack their XBoxes as well and play ripped copies,of games they get from Gamefly - but these don't work on live. We live in a society that wants to pay next to nothing for everything, without understanding the long term affects. DRM is needed if we want new, high quality, content to continue to be produced. There is no reason to create if there is no fair compensation for the content producers.

Barb Gonzalez's picture
Just want to make sure everyone who has commented here has heard that Microsoft dropped the additional game fee and always-on requirement. There are benefits to constant updates to games, but that should be a preference and I'm glad they backed down. As for fancy hookups, I'm sure there are other ways to connect and control your cable/satellite box, but are those solutions under $500? I've already put my deposit down for an Xbox One. And I can't wait for it to "hear my heartbeat!" bg
Barb Gonzalez's picture
Just want to make sure everyone who has commented here has heard that Microsoft dropped the additional game fee and always-on requirement. There are benefits to constant updates to games, but that should be a preference and I'm glad they backed down. As for fancy hookups, I'm sure there are other ways to connect and control your cable/satellite box, but are those solutions under $500? I've already put my deposit down for an Xbox One. And I can't wait for it to "hear my heartbeat!" bg

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