What happens to the HD television experience if you marry Microsoft's gestural- and voice-controllable Kinect with an Xbox and lots of content? Microsoft says that future is now, offering a range of entertainment content that can be controlled and searched by talking and hand-waving.
On Wednesday, the technology giant said it would be making available a large offering of TV shows and other entertainment content, via Xbox LIVE, and the ability to control and search that content by using the Xbox's Kinect controller as the interface.
Nearly 40 Content Providers
The content comes from nearly 40 providers of TV, movies, and sports content, as a result of new agreements with HBO, Comcast, Bravo, Verizon, the BBC, Channel 4, ZDF-TV in Germany, Telefonica in Spain, Televisa in Mexico, MediaSet in Italy and Australia's ABC. Microsoft already has agreements with Hulu, ESPN and Netflix, among others. The content will be available in more than 20 countries.
Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business unit, said in a statement that combining this content "with the power of Kinect for Xbox 360 and the intelligence of Bing voice search will make TV and entertainment more personal, social and effortless."
Microsoft said that the Xbox 360 is the "first console to offer access to the world's greatest TV properties," although Sony has been working to similarly position its PlayStation console as the hub of a new age of HD-TV-based interactive entertainment.
Microsoft's vision is that a family can go from playing an Xbox game to watching a recorded or live TV program, all controlled via gestures or voice. In the announcement, Verizon Vice President Eric Bruno called this scenario "the borderless lifestyle." Verizon is also working with Microsoft to launch voice-and-gesture control of live TV entertainment.
As one example of how live programming is going to change, ESPN has noted that its service on Xbox LIVE offers thousands of live events, coupled with personalization features, split-screen viewing, and an updated interface guide for finding highlights from favorite teams.
Similarly, Ultimate Fighting Championship offers live pre-event video, a collection of video available on-demand, and pay-per-view events. Web video is available via YouTube, TMZ, MSN with MSNBC.com, and others.
The "borderless lifestyle" is also supposed to be free from the need to juggle remote controls. Voice control, Microsoft said, now will allow a user to get Xbox's attention simply by saying its name, then searching for episodes of a TV program by asking for the Bing search engine, and then the name of the program.
But if you don't want to wave and talk to your Xbox, Microsoft is offering another option. On Thursday, it announced an Xbox companion app for Windows 7 phones, which allows owners to use smartphones with that operating system for control of their Xbox and its content.