Xbox One UI or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Kinect

The Kinect and it’s inclusion for every Xbox One is arguably one of the most controversial parts of Microsoft’s strategy. The back and forth can be summed up to the idea of whether it’s more important to be on every console so that developers will use it versus the inflated upfront cost of the console.

Well, the onus is on Microsoft to share how it’s going to be useful. We’ve seen games that utilize it as the main source of control – Just Dance 14 and upcoming Kinect Sports Rivals, for instance, or games like Rockband developer Harmonix’s Fantasia (due in 2014).

Then there are games which are already showing promise with enhancements – Dead Rising 3 will be using the microphone where your own sounds can attract (un)wanted zombie attention, or even use the motion of pushing with the controller to shove zombies off you. We can also expect things like head tracking and voice commands in Forza Motorsport 5 though they did drop Forzavista Kinect controls and the Kinect driving modes seen in FM4 on the Xbox 360.

As expected, the Xbox One user interface (UI) has integrated Kinect controls – from being able to navigate to multitasking either with voice or motion, to automatically switching profiles when someone passes a controller over, the Kinect promises to make things easier.

Some of the possibilities that could happen with an open marketplace and apps built are astounding – consider a company like Ikea showing you what your livingroom would look like with their latest furniture, or if a major clothing store were to put a catalog of their latest fashions in an app for a “Kinect dressing room”. These are hypotheticals, of course, but seeing the manipulation that even the last generation Kinect brought with the Kinect Party game, it’s not hard to imagine how this could grow. In the meantime Microsoft will have a significant list of applications available at launch and may offer value to even the non-gamers in the house, including making calls with Skype.

This morning a video was released with Yusef Medhi and Marc Whitten, Xbox head honchos as they take us through 12 minutes of using the dashboard interface including pins, instant switching, biometric sign-in, Live TV, Skype, game DVR, and OneGuide. I did note that the snap-to function was left off the demo, whether that be due to the rumoured problems last week or simply not in focus is something the Internet can argue. The refreshing part of the video above is that the erstweil “Metro”interface is being used far better than the 360 dashboard. Your pins are front-and-centre, and it looks like advertising has been brought down to nothing (at least, on the dashboard itself – I’d expect it to make it into the store sections, after all, isn’t that why we’d be in there?) – it reminds me of the simple functionality realized in Windows Phone 8 but takes it a step further with the groupings on the right side of the UI.

My curiousity was piqued when, at 5:58 in the video above, Yusef spreads his arms to physically describe the widescreen capability of the Kinect, and two hands show up on the sides of the screen. Was this Skype, or Xbox One’s overlay? What were we seeing here?

While we’re talking Kinect, WPCentral posted a Vine with Major Nelson showing off another “redeeming” quality. QR code scanning is a pretty common smartphone technology, but coupled with a simple voice command and showing a redemption code to Kinect, it looks like we won’t need to be reaching for our keyboards, smartglass devices or struggling with controller thumbsticks to type the latest 25 character code, though Larry is pretty close to the camera.

We’ve not had direct hands-on time with the Xbox One, so while we can watch videos the same as you, we’re very, very curious to see how this all hangs together. It’s a brave new world, and as we move closer to launch we can certainly feel the anticipation building – and it isn’t just because Titanfall is out in March. There looks to be lots to do and experience come November 22, and while we expect the first round of games to only scratch the surface of the tech features, there is clearly some value for everyone – even those of us only interested in the games.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Canada, at a young age I was forced to decide whether the harsh northern winters were going to claim my fingers, or to turn to the safer pursuits of indoor activities. Little did I know that a little game called Ninja Gaiden would bring my digits more pain than frostbite ever could. Starting with Vectrex and C64 games and moving forward through the era of electronic entertainment, I sampled as much as I could in the different platforms, and began my interest in PC gaming from wrestling with DOS memory management.

While console games were a part of my earliest gaming memories and I certainly had played on most platforms including 3D0, all things Nintendo, PS1 and the like, truly the PC was my domain until the Xbox. As an old PC gamer, I ever chased the cutting edge technology. Eye of the beholder with CGA 4 colors was my first step down the the path of blowing thousands of dollars on PC upgrades over two decades. Ultima 7, with the Guardian talking to me through my monitor, still haunts my dreams and keeps me ever hoping for a decent Ultima 8 and 9. From the 3DFX SLI VooDoo2s and Aureal to today's GPU driven DirectX games, the new and shiny pictures seem to keep me going. My PC gaming has slowed down with the market shift though, and although I have choice games that will ever be on PC, I have found myself in console gaming with a bit of portable gaming in my life.

Back around the turn of the millenium (and long before fatherhood), I had fired off an email offering to help Ron with a little-known site called ConsoleGold. Little did I know it would be be a part of my life to this day. While I've seen my fair share of shovelware (thanks Ron!), I manage to try and find the fun in most games. Leaning towards sandbox and action titles, I've grown to love games for their potential to reach art. Console agnostic and excited for the progress of tomorrow, I fancy the latest and greatest, but still enjoy the good old classics ... as long as they've been revamped from their 8bit graphic roots.

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