Immersive, Personal, and Connected

On Tuesday May 21st , these were the words that Microsoft used to describe its next generation console, the Xbox One. With upgraded hardware and some impressive industry partnerships, Microsoft has a big lead in the future of console gaming. Microsoft’s announcement seemed to focus less on the gaming aspect and more on the entertainment value of the new Xbox. With HDMI pass-through and a completely redone Kinect the new console will sit next to your AV equipment not just as a console but an all-in-one entertainment experience.

The Xbox One

The 8 core micro-processor loaded with 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive will provide your games and apps an ample amount of power and performance to achieve new standards in gaming and entertainment. Microsoft has also added a Blu-Ray player this time around along with USB 3.0 and 802.11N wireless with Wi-Fi Direct. The Kinect, which will come standard along with a slightly redesigned controller, also got quite the upgrade. It comes with a 1080p HD camera, 30 FPS color, and a new microphone array that will be able to filter out your voice from ambient noise much better than its predecessor. All this is quite impressive but what does it all mean?

Let’s start with the Kinect. The camera can see in the dark and identify you by your voice. It can tell you your heart rate and how balanced you are. Currently it can detect wrist and other joint movement. Exercise and fitness related video game developers are going to love all this. The voice commands were very responsive in the demo and the command language seems a lot more natural: “Xbox on” and “Xbox, open Internet Explorer. The controller got some love also. It included a minor redesign with an integrated battery, and the controls look more tactile than the previous 360 controller.

Xbox SmartGlass, the application that is available to control your Xbox 360 experience, is more integrated with the new Xbox One. The app was used all throughout the demo from the announcer’s mobile phone but could also be used on your PC, laptop, or tablet.

Some of the key things that I took away were the voice activated “Instant On” feature. So does this mean it’s always listening? The ability to quickly and easily switch back and forth between TV, Skype, Video games, and movies was fantastic. You can also do two at the same time. Playing a game and a Skype call comes in. No problem. You can watch and surf the web in Snap mode, which is just like the feature in Windows 8 where you can have tiled exclusive applications like your desktop open while your news app is docked to the left or right. Another great feature is the ability to search your cable guide with your voice using the Kinect. You can search by station, program name, and/or time.

Another big draw, especially for me, is the partnership with the NFL. I can only imagine what the Super Bowl will be like next year. I am guessing it will be super interactive. Fantasy football just got cooler with the integrated TV you can check out your fantasy QB live while he is playing. There is also going to be some work with ESPN, another one of my favorites.

Cloud connected. The “Cloud” is a really overused buzz word and in many cases has multiple meanings and it’s the same for the Xbox. Games can utilize cloud based information such as live stats from other players. Your TV guide can show you what shows are being watched by your friends and what’s trending across the Xbox community. As you can imagine the other part of this is that advertisers are going to be foaming at the mouth to take advantage of this new medium. Ugh…

Video Games!!!! That is why we have an Xbox. They don’t disappoint here at all. The game footage they showed at the demo was fantastic. With that cool new tech you now have mind blowing graphics, insane physics, and extremely detailed characters. The stuff that was PC only is coming to the console. WOW and I don’t mean that silly MMO with like 10 trillion subscribers. They redesigned achievements too. Achievements will now span across games and experiences keeping track of what you earned and how you earned it.

Matchmaking now has a new name. Smart Match. Let’s see how smart it is. Supposedly you can be watching TV playing a game or listening to music while the Xbox is finding you a sparring partner  for your favorite FPS. Oh, and once you get into your game, you can DVR it. Hell yeah! This is the new ultimate “check out this move” tool.

Microsoft also announced 15 Xbox Exclusive titles in the first year. 8 of the 15 will be new franchises. They are also partnering with EA for exclusive content with their FIFA and Madden games. I can’t wait to see the new Halo on this hardware!!!!! Forza 5 looks insane and a new concept from the creator of Alan Wake and Max Payne called Quantum Break looks very promising and will most likely take advantage of the new shift in gaming that the Xbox One brings to the table.
Did I mention Halo? How about a live Halo TV show? You got it. Xbox will also have its own television network with original programming and movies. Talk about entertainment.

I am pretty excited about the whole announcement. I am sure there are other things that they are keeping quiet for now so you should expect more. They haven’t even done E3 yet. You can check out E3 starting June 11th through the 13 at the LA Convention Center. I know I will be watching the myriad of Internet and television broadcasts.

What else is there to say? Sony has a lot of work to do. I think Microsoft is really taking entertainment to a whole new level. Sony hasn’t talked about much but I am not sure they are as heavily invested as Microsoft is at this point. All I know is the next generation consoles are going to be EPIC!

Did you miss the Microsoft demo event? Check it out here and here.

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