Sony got a head start on Microsoft in the video game rush, releasing its Playstation 4 last Friday. But this Friday, the new era of the gaming console war heats up as Microsoft's Xbox One hits store shelves for $499.99.
The two systems are surely the fiercest of competitors, but while the PS4 has kept its focus mostly on the games, the Xbox One is looking beyond the controller, acting as an all-in-one media center.
You can use the new Xbox to watch TV, browse the Internet and make phone calls over Skype. But has Microsoft made the killer gaming and entertainment system for your living room?
The Kinect and the User Experience
Many of the Xbox One's new features are tied to the Kinect, Microsoft's multifunctional add-on included with the system. Like the Playstation 4 camera, the Kinect camera can also recognize people on sight and log in to their accounts. It's a small convenience that goes a long way. As soon as you walk by the system, it will log you in.
The Kinect is also capable of speech recognition. If you're controller averse, you can navigate through many of the Xbox's menus by voice alone. Shout out the proper commands, and it can turn the Xbox on and start up many of the Xbox's apps. It works most of the time, though it does make the occasional mistake and take time to react.
Like the original Kinect for the Xbox 360, the Kinect is capable of recognizing various types of hand movements and gestures, though some are more successful than others. The two-handed motion to bring users back to the home screen works regularly, but the one-handed gesture to confirm which app to open on the home screen is spotty. Many times, it ended up choosing a different app than intended.
|Xbox One goes way beyond the controller|
Ultimately, the Kinect is a powerful tool at the Xbox's disposal. Developers are likely to find ways to take advantage of the Kinect's abilities to make interesting games and apps. Microsoft's Fitness app uses the Kinect to track muscle activity and heart rate during exercise. In terms of the Xbox interface, though, it is often more convenient to use the controller to navigate between menus or the SmartGlass app for Android, Windows Phone and iOS devices to input text.