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Xbox 360 entertainment upgrade includes voice commands



Microsoft this week unveiled new features for its Xbox 360 gaming console that it hopes will further its ambition to be the entertainment hub for the home. The updates include voice and gesture controls for the TV, which expand on the ground-breaking technology incorporated in the Kinect motion controller, which was introduced last year.

Starting this month, Microsoft is dramatically increasing the number of partners for Xbox LIVE, its online entertainment store. As well as enjoying content from existing partners such as Hulu, Netflix, ZUNE Music and ESPN, Xbox LIVE customers will now be able to access additional shows and other content from MSNBC, Verizon FiOS TV, Comcast’s Infinity, and HBO.

Microsoft clearly believes this is just the start of things to come. While it has yet to cut deals with the major broadcast networks in the U.S., it clearly wants to demonstrate its potential as a more efficient delivery mechanism than satellite and cable. To this end, Microsoft is also introducing a series of new content selection tools.

One of the persistent problems with existing TV set-top boxes is that owners have access to a huge amount of TV content but have trouble finding what they want. Searching for a program usually involves an agonizingly slow scroll though a hard-to-find channel guide or an equally frustrating single-letter text search using a TiVo DVR or other recording device.

Now Xbox owners with Kinect can swipe through screens by waving their hand in the air or by using voice commands. Microsoft has also incorporated its Bing search engine into the voice selection process. Users can just say commands like “find Jennifer Anniston movies” and they will be presented with all available titles from the various Xbox LIVE sources.

Voice search is initially available only in English in the U.S. Xbox owners that don’t have the Kinect add-on can still search using text. The upgrades are available as a free download from Xbox LIVE from December 6 onwards.



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