With the slow, quiet death of the Great Kinect Experiment came some pretty pointed questions - when would Xbox One receive a new user interface that didn't so heavily rely on the doomed camera peripheral, and what would it entail? Last night, Major Nelson answered both of those questions: it's coming this Christmas, and the dead AI lady from Halo lives in it now.
Clearly built to complement the upcoming Windows 10, the new interface keeps the Xbox One's simple tabs, but aims to streamline the process of getting around - it's literally faster for a start.
Recently played games sit on your Home screen, accompanied by friend activity and dev announcements (indicating if there's a new patch or DLC packs), while the Friends sections becomes "Community", which puts the activity feeds, trending games and shared content front-and-centre.
That's because of the new sidebar, which incorporates Friend lists, Parties and even commonly-used settings like volume controls in an overlay that can be used any time, even mid-game. It's designed so that simple activities like inviting friends to your game can be done in fewer button presses than ever.
Cortana, Windows' answer to Siri, is also being added to Xbox One, allowing for a smoother, more intelligent version of the existing Kinect voice controls. Cortana allows you to record and upload clips in a single command, send party invites to friends and more, without pausing whatever you're doing at the time.
It's not yet clear what input this requires, but I'd be surprised if it didn't allow for regular headphone mics as well as Kinect, given Microsoft's dropping of the camera as a pack-in peripheral. All-in-all, it looks like a positive set of improvements - no huge changes (which explains why it didn't make it into the main Microsoft conference), but intelligent ones, reflecting a potential new audience.
You can see a brief rundown of features in the following trailer, but I'd suggest watching yesterday's Xbox Daily show, which explains the features in detail (skip to 54:48).