Today, Microsoft held a conference to reveal what is, without a doubt, some of the most exciting news to hit the gaming industry in recent years. Their new console, titled Xbox One, is absolutely jam-packed with cutting edge technology and innovative social features. Here’s a rundown of everything we learned today about the future of gaming.
Microsoft’s next console is “cloud-powered,” “personal,” and most importantly, “future-proof.” The company showed off an array of new features, and it began with a newly designed controller. It’s pretty similar to the standard Xbox 360 controller, but with added features meant to provide ‘ultimate precision,’ along with the equally important consideration of ergonomics. The device totes impulse triggers, a precision-based direction pad, and an integrated battery compartment. The controller, as pictured below, includes over forty subtle design improvements over the current 360 controller.
A New Look
A revamped dashboard was also part of the announcement. Although the aesthetics of the new homescreen aren’t radically different from the current one, there are a few important changes. If you’re used to the Xbox 360, you’ll instantly notice that the new dash features a similar tile-based layout. What’s new, then, is a slew of innovative social content and personalization features. The Xbox One will remember your most recent content, keep tabs on your favorite media, and show what’s trending amongst both your friends and the citizens of the world.
Ever wanted to watch live TV without switching over to a cable box? Now you can, and it’s made even easier with Xbox One support. Not only can you switch directly to traditional television programs, there’s a handy Xbox guide to help you out. The console keeps track of your most watched shows, and can give you suggestions based on the most popular programs that are currently live. On top of all that, the device features extensive multi-tasking support, meaning you can surf the web or shop for games while your favorite episode of Breaking Bad is on commercial.
Update: An HDMI pass through allows cable, satellite and boxes alike to be plugged into the Xbox One and the single passed onto a connect TV.
If you’ve even used an iOS device, you’ll quickly understand the Xbox One’s “snap mode,” which allows for lightning-fast application swapping and multi-tasking. As previously hypothesized, the console’s various features will allow users to place a game or application in a “suspended” state. From there, the user can move to a different game or app, interact with it, and then return to the original program when they’re ready. So, if you weren’t already excited, you now have the power to achieve sensory overload by watching two movies at once. If you’re not really a film buff, you could try listening to music while watching TV, or playing a game while reading the news. This a new generation of overconsumption.
All of the multi-tasking features announced today are compatible with Skype, which allows for a new level of social interaction. The company showcased interactive ESPN integration, which allows fantasy leagues to be fused with live TV. What this means for the future of sports, then, is that watching a game at home is no longer watching a game at home. You can can chat with your friends, check up on players stats, get updates, and more – all while actually watching the televised competition.
Tablets & Smartphones
Xbox SmartGlass received a few nods at the event, but unfortunately, there wasn’t much in the way of a comprehensive demonstation. If anything, the company made sure to explain that the technology would be utilized to an even greater extent on Xbox One. Strangely enough, Microsoft’s innovative IllumiRoom technology never managed to make an appearance. We’re still expecting to see it at E3.
16x More Ram
Speaking of the console itself, we got some serious specs today. The Xbox One features 8 gigabytes of RAM, which is an insane improvement over the 360’s 512 megabytes. Other notable bulletpoints include HDMI in & out capabilities, USB 3.0 ports, Blu-ray technology, a more advanced Kinect sensor, and the addition of dedicated in-game DVR.
Update: The original Kinect was sort of a work in progress that in my experience never quite worked right. The new Kinect has a full HD (1080) camera, and has a 60% wider field of view, meaning it can see more people and needs less space to operate – no more clearing furniture out of the way. Moreover, it can capture 60fps, works with Skype calls and is so sensitive it can measure your pulse by reading pigmentation in your face. It’s also better add reading the room’s depth and size using something called time-of-flight technology.
Also, a new 500GB hard drive was built-in house, as was the Blu-ray drive to accomodate better airflow to the much larger engine that has been stuffed inside of the Xbox One. Housed on a single 40-nanometer chip is both a CPU and GPU – compared to the Xbox 360, which has two dedicated 90-nm chips.
The Complete Experience
In an attempt to create what is being called “a human experience,” the device’s Kinect feature-set has been ramped up, remixed, and improved upon. All of these adjustments are positioned to provide a “lag-free, instant, and complete experience.” With over 300,000 new Xbox Live servers, it seems the company might be interested in keeping their word.
So there you have it, the future of entertainment. Keep your tabs glued to Gadget Review for an upcoming overview of all the games announced at today’s revelatory event.
Boston-based writer, artist, designer, critic, loser & storyteller. Focused on the intersection of games, culture, narrative, and art. KillerStrokes on XBL, Steam, PSN. @Wherbit on Twitter. http://willpowerarts.com/