Eight years after releasing the Xbox 360, Microsoft has unveiled the next generation of its gaming console, and the company seems to be making up for lost time.
The new gaming system, which it plans to release before the end of the year, is chock full of new features that go way beyond new hardware, including Skype connectivity, television integration and new ways of controlling the system with your voice and body.
"We have an ambitious vision to become the all-in-one system for every living room," Microsoft president of Interactive Entertainment Business Don Mattrick said at the Xbox event in Redmond, Wash., this afternoon. Highlighting that the Xbox is not just a gaming system anymore, Mattrick added: "We're thrilled to unveil the ultimate all-in-one entertainment system: the Xbox One."
New Powerful Console with a New Kinect
Along with that box, though, will come a new Kinect camera and sensor, which allows you to become the controller. Unlike the current Xbox 360, the Kinect will be included with every Xbox One, though Microsoft has not revealed pricing. The new Kinect has a 1080p wide-angle camera and an improved sensor that can detect slight rotations of your wrist or shoulder. It can even read your heartbeat, Microsoft says.
A Selection of Controllers
The Kinect will also allow you to control the main interface of the system with gestures; you can wave your hand to move through menus Microsoft demonstrated during the hour-long event. But the Kinect is only one of the advanced controllers for the One.
One of the standout hardware features might be the microphone on the box. Yes, a microphone. Microsoft has included new advanced voice control and commands. Say "Xbox, Go Home" aloud and it will return to the homescreen of the system. You can also say "Snap Internet Explorer" and you can bring up the browser and place it next to a game, similar to how you can snap windows next to each other in Windows 8.
Xbox's popular handheld controller is not undergoing a major design overhaul, but there are several tweaks that will help it interact with Kinect via Wi-Fi Direct, keeping track of where you are playing in the room and how you are moving your controller around. One example cited Kinect connectivity being used to create a "shield" around the player. The controller also features a redesigned d-pad for more precision and rumbling "dynamic impulse triggers."
There is one last way to control the system -- with your tablet or phone. Using Microsoft's Smartglass technology, which is enabled now on the current Xbox 360, you can swipe through the interface on the TV right from your personal device.
Skype and TV Content
Beyond using a tablet to navigate, the Xbox One is an extension of the tablet. In addition to bringing over some Windows 8-like functionality, it has integrated Skype right into Xbox, complete with video calling. There is also new app functionality. For instance, an ESPN app will alert you to your fantasy player stats while playing a game.