This fall, the Xbox Live experience
will evolve once more. Past dashboard updates have brought us features like
Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, ESPN and customizable avatars. So what’s new this
time? Yesterday we spoke with Terry Farrell, Senior Product Manager of Xbox,
about the coming changes and, for your convenience, stuck the most significant
ones in this handy list right here.
1. New design
Aesthetically, the new Xbox Live is
very different from the current design. The channels are gone, replaced by a
look similar to that of the Windows Phone interface. The update is much
cleaner, showing fewer items on screen while still clearly presenting the
options that users can navigate to. Plus, the new dashboard can be interacted
with using Kinect’s motion and voice commands, so having to switch back and
forth between the main controller-directed areas and the specific Kinect areas
will soon be a thing of the past.
2. Enhanced performance
Microsoft is also attempting to
improve the speed and performance of the menus.
Even though the build that we toured was not final, no hitches or
hiccups presented themselves – menus popped up quickly and navigation seemed
responsive when using Kinect. Our demo of the dashboard didn’t include
advertisements, video or audio clips like the current interface does, however,
and that will be the true test of performance. For now, we’re optimistic.
3. Social broadcasting
The Xbox Live team plans on further
integrating social networks such as Facebook (and presumably Twitter) into the
core gaming experience. One intriguing new idea is beacons. A beacon allows
players to broadcast to friends that they want to play a specific game. These
broadcasts can be sent through Xbox Live or Facebook, and will feature custom
messages that can be attached to the beacon, making it easy for friends and
other gamers to get organized and play multiplayer games together online.
4. Achievement sharing
Another social media feature mentioned
was the ability to automatically post the Achievements that you unlock to
Facebook. Now, that may sound like the biggest source of spam to hit your news
feed since Farmville, but rest assured it will come with an option to filter
out the insignificant Achievements. For example, your friends will only see
that you finished Gears of War 3 on insane difficulty, not that you just
finished the tutorial.
5. Search with voice
Xbox is partnering with search engine Bing
(they’re both Microsoft products, after all) to streamline the way that consumers
find media through their consoles. With a Kinect handy, simply saying, “Xbox,
Bing Batman” – the new search technology will pull up any relevant results, from
separate sources, and put them on the screen. This includes movies, games,
music, Netflix, and Hulu results, all related to Batman. Users save time not
only by avoiding the exercise of chicken pecking out the search query on the
controller keyboard or the joystick, but also by reducing the number of places
needed to look. If The Dark Knight isn’t available on Netflix, but is available
on Zune Movies, you’ll know instantly.
And more on the way…
Microsoft will be adding more and more
new features, partners, and content to its Xbox Live service well into 2012, helping
to solidify the Xbox 360 as a center of entertainment for the home. Although the
developers couldn’t give us any specific names, they promised they will be
revealing their partnerships with TV cable operators in the near future, and that
the services that come out of those partnerships will have features unique to
Xbox 360 and its social features built-in. Using voice commands to find TV content
in the new search engine and joining friends, chatting, or leaving comments as
they watch their favorite TV shows, sports or movies are just two improvements
coming. Cloud storage and roaming profiles are also definite possibilities for
the future, but Microsoft representatives told us that they are saving those
details for a later time.
you excited or apprehensive about the new Xbox Live update? Is this a step
forward or back? Share your thoughts below.