E3: Xbox One's Kinect sensor updates, cloud sharing advantages and live TV apps explained
Following the reveal of the Xbox One in May, Microsoft is using 2013 E3 as its way of introducing audiences to its next generation console. The system's strict policies and high cost have troubled some fans, but Microsoft is arguing that they're worth the hassle.
During an "Xbox One 101" presentation at E3, Zap2it was shown three different demos to demonstrate the various capabilities of the new Xbox system. The first was the updated Cloud sharing system, which will give developers the opportunity to build worlds that are "infinitely large" because they don't have to rely solely on the console's CPU and memory. The example used in the demo showed the way an asteroid belt could be updated accurately in real time based on information provided by NASA. The amount of data that could be added using the cloud capabilities was significantly larger than the amount shown using the Xbox One alone.
The downside of the cloud sharing is the need for a console to be frequently connected to the Internet, but the possibilities presented by the added cloud CPUs backing the Xbox One's abilities are impressive and exciting. The new cloud abilities will allow for more human and accurate worlds to be created by developers that will also be able to live persistently on the cloud even when a gamer isn't using the console.
The Xbox One is also touting an updated Kinect sensor. This comes packaged with the console, and is significantly toned down from the Kinect 1.0 for Xbox 360. While that motion control sensor often required gamers to use a controller separate from their body movements, this new version allows a player to hold the controller while making the Kinect movements and will offer what were described as "potentially magical" opportunities. Now Kinect will use natural gaming reflexes like shifting from side to side while playing a racing game or holding a controller up in front of one's face to try to act as a shield as part of the gameplay.
The examples shown in the "Reflex" demo at E3 were of a hand being tapped to the side of a head to bring up night vision, a controller being held up higher to act as a shield and the demonstrator leaning from side to side to avoid objects coming at him. In the shifting demonstration, the Microsoft employee described the player's spine as a "third thumbstick." While he was holding the Xbox One controller while making those movements, he didn't have to use it to implement those new Kinect abilities.
The demonstrator said that movements won't need to be exaggerated, as the Kinect 2.0 will be able to pick up on subtle movements, track heart rates and otherwise monitor a player. The general idea is that these more natural movements will allow gamers to not have to learn new button sets, but it remains to be seen how this more sensitive version of Kinect will be able to differentiate between intentional and unintentional movements, which was a problem with its predecessor. After all, you don't want to scratch your head and accidentally bring up night vision goggles in the wrong situation.
As lovers of television, the final example of the Xbox One's new abilities was particularly interesting. One of the console's biggest advantages that Microsoft is touting is the ability to watch live television through the Xbox One. It seems as though the company is looking to partner with television companies to add apps that can be used alongside the television programming on both the Xbox One and SmartGlass. The example shown during the presentation was of an NFL app that can keep track of live game scores on the side of a television screen while a viewer is watching other programming, and of a fantasy sports app that will automatically update someone on the status of their team's players while they're using the Xbox One.
Though the NFL, HBO and the CW were shown as potential examples for some of the apps, the demonstrator told Zap2it that no specific partners have been announced yet. "We're always engaged with lots of content partners but we haven't announced any specific partners yet," he said. He also teased that the system in which a cable can be connected through the Xbox One to allow live television viewing is something exciting which will be revealed at a later date.
The Xbox One goes on sale in November. What are your biggest questions about the Xbox One?