What is the Future of the Xbox?
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Any console owner almost certainly uses their system for things other than gaming. My PlayStation 4 is the portal for all my digital and disc related gaming adventures, but it's also how I watch television shows and movies. Modern consoles can also be music machines to listen to things like Spotify while you're lounging about the house or maybe even doing something productive like washing dishes (the horror!). You can also use your console to browse the Internet if you so choose, though it's generally a bit more unwieldy than a computer or mobile device. The point is, consoles are used for much more than just gaming nowadays, so companies are looking for ways to have their systems do as much as they can.

One such example is that of Microsoft working to include features like Google and Amazon's Alexa. These digital assistants are already extremely popular on their own via devices like the Google Home, and Amazon Echo. The mobile app connected to those smart speakers allows users to activate certain skills. Anyone looking to control their Xbox console with their voice will just need to enable digital assistants on their system and activate the Xbox skills app through Alexa or Google Assistant. Then, they'll be able to vocally control any number of various tasks on their console. This negates the need for things like a controller or remote to change the volume when you're watching a video, among many other things.

The inclusion of these digital assistants on the Xbox might seem like a small and inconsequential thing, but it gives proof to the idea that consoles are multimedia boxes. It's possible that this is just a small step into a bigger future for Microsoft. It's easy to include systems like Alexa and Google Assistant that already exist. But perhaps in the future, the Xbox will include even more options and systems that have been developed by Microsoft or any of the number of companies it would be willing to work with. Maybe we start today with the ability to pause videos with just our voice, but tomorrow could apps like Grubhub to the console. It's possible that we'll be able to play games and order a whole danged dinner at the same time.

If there's anything to be concerned about here though, it's this: Microsoft has previously given the whole voice activated concept a whirl in varying different ways. First, they tried with the Kinect. I don't know many people personally who used their Kinect for voice commands, and I know even fewer who played games with it. Then there was Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Siri. She's great and all, but you have to be wearing a headset to communicate with her on the Xbox. No one wants to wear a headset just to give an occasional command. So user expectations for digital assistant integration are pretty low on the Xbox One.


Combine this with the fact that many who have digital assistants claim that they don't use them much, that there are too few options, or that the delay is too long. The last thing you want is to come to a part in a film that is obnoxiously loud, and you need to quickly turn it off to avoid waking someone, but Alexa takes forever to figure out what you asked. These concerns are certainly worrying as far as believing that Microsoft will be able to successfully evolve the Xbox to something other than a pure gaming machine. We'll have to wait and see how useful the digital assistants are on the console, as well as whatever Microsoft ends up including next.

April Marie
April Marie

Contributing Writer
Date: 06/08/2018

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