The current Xbox 360 already has some rudimentary voice controls by way of the Kinect accessory, but they’re very menu-based and they’re very restrictive. We’re hearing that the next-generation Xbox, whether it’s called the Xbox 720 or something else, will have better natural language processing capabilities, not unlike what you experience with Apple’s Siri digital assistant.
We’ve heard all sorts of rumors about the supposed specs on the next Xbox, but that’s on the hardware side of things. On the software side of things, it seems that Microsoft wants to make an even bigger push for the “Xbox 720” to be the focal point of your living room. It’s not just about games. It’s a full-on multimedia and web-connected hub, getting you to watch Netflix and Hulu, search for information on Bing, and yes play multimedia games via Kinect.
Word on the street is that the Xbox 720 can be in sleep mode and you turn it back on with a simple “Xbox on” voice command. You can use the natural language processing to check on what your friends are currently playing or continue watching a movie that you paused yesterday. The Kinect sensor can also detect when there are multiple people in the room, suggesting fun multiplayer games for those situations and more solo games when it only detects one person in the room.
I’ve seen voice-based user interfaces on certain smart televisions these last couple of years and they all make me reach for the traditional remote instead. I’m not sure how different Microsoft can be on that front–I never use the voice commands on my Kinect–but perhaps this “Siri-like” experience will finally be what we wanted it to be in the beginning. In either case, the new Xbox is expected to make its debut at GDC or E3 with a launch in time for the 2013 holiday shopping season. Now we just have to see what Sony has up its home console sleeve.