The Xbox One is overflowing with the kind of electronic magic that can supposedly sense your heart rate from a distance, track the smallest movements of your smallest limbs, and tell your voice apart from all the other folks in the room.
But somehow, what one Microsoft exec called “space-aged technology” will only glue us that much more firmly to our couches.
Congratulations, future Xbox One gamers. At the moment, a key feature of one of the next decade’s tentpole consoles will be its ability to let you run your entire living room with your voice. Forget pressing buttons and digging around for remotes on the couch. Aside from twitchy controller movements and the grab for the next handful of nachos and in-game bathroom breaks, you’ll barely have to move once the Xbox One is in your life.
And that’s just the slightest bit concerning.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of the technological advances that Microsoft is making. Similar features are baked into today’s Smart TVs, but they only work with mixed results. Menus in even the newest Smart TVs are laggy, voice controls inconsistent, internet browsing a rollercoaster experience.
If Microsoft can solve these issues in the Xbox One, building on the first-generation Kinect’s voice- and motion-sensing technology and delivering a snappy, speedy experience, it could easily become your go-to living room device.
But there’s irony here, too. From the original Nintendo Wii to the first run of Kinect games to the PlayStation Move, current-generation consoles made a truly valiant attempt to get gamers up and moving. This round of consoles, at least for the moment, seems to have scrapped that plan, led by the Xbox One. With this console, Microsoft’s initial presentation seemed to indicate, you’ll never have to move at all.
By nature, gaming’s a sedentary pastime, with the gamer relying on minute finger-twitches to control much broader motions on-screen. Gamers don’t necessarily want to get up and move; they want to sit back and live vicariously through on-screen characters.
I’m the same way when I game, but I’ve never been too lazy to find any of the remotes for my home theater setup, and I’ve never had an issue pressing a button to change the channel. Did such simple actions really need that much extra simplification? Really? Granted, technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but could some things be getting too easy?
I can’t help but wonder. And I can’t help but hope that Microsoft will put all this “space-aged technology” to far better use than what it’s already shown. The tech seems wasted as a voice-enabled web surf and voice-commanded power on function. What, was it that hard for me to pick up the Xbox controller I was going to use anyway and press the big button in the center?
My hope is that Microsoft integrates all this technology into its games, creating a richer, far more immersive gaming experience. If these voice and motion controls are so potent, then they should permeate each and every title, giving new rise to more potent games.
On current-gen consoles, we’ve seen a large divide between motion-controlled games and “regular” games; there are dance games and fitness games for your Kinect, and RPGs and first-person shooters for the Xbox. But a marriage of both brands of gaming – something we’ve seen all too rarely despite all the motion tech – could create a far richer experience.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen only a handful of titles even bother to execute such things. No console had a finer Mass Effect 3 experience than the 360, in large part because you could yell to responsive teammates to use their Biotic abilities while you handled your own character. And Madden 13’s voice-controlled audibles was a good idea, although latency issues prevented this from being truly groundbreaking.
Still, it’s these ideas that must be built upon, and it’s here that developers must utilize the Xbox One’s capabilities most. Imagine hacking in Watch Dogs taking place with a detailed touch cube on your TV. Or imagine yelling to a teammate for a pick in NBA 2K15, and pointing to the spot where you want it, then changing your mind and (literally) waving the pick off.
Of course, for these ideas to work, the motion detection must be pinpoint, the voice recognition flawless. And it’s entirely possible that, for all the hype surrounding the Xbox One’s new high-tech Kinect, the technology simply isn’t quite that accurate yet.
That’s something we’ll learn in the coming weeks and months. But for now, just get comfortable on your couches.
If things hold form, you may be sitting there for a good long time.
FIVE QUESTIONS WITH CC SABATHIA
Yankees ace CC Sabathia dominates the mound, and he dominates video games, too. Here, he answers a few of our gaming questions:
DN: So word is you and your kids are into Skylanders?
SABATHIA: Yup. Playing with the kids and stuff. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been awesome. It’s something that the whole family can play, all our kids. My youngest, Carter, is two. My oldest, CC III, is nine. He wants the stories. He wants to do whatever obstacle is next.
One of my friends had bought (Skylanders) for my son for his birthday. We’ve got all the second-generation characters. I don’t know how many we have floating around the house.
DN: What else do you play these days?
SABATHIA: I play (NBA) 2K13. I play (MLB 13) The Show. Call of Duty. I stopped playing Madden when The Show came out. I usually play Madden until the baseball game comes.
DN: Do you play on the road too?
SABATHIA: I have a truck, a case where I bring a PlayStation, my TV, and all my games. I play a lot on the road. I play a lot on PlayStation.
DN: What’s your all-time favorite game? Give us your top five.
SABATHIA: Man. For me, I would have to say . . . man . . . I like the old Tecmo Bowl. R.B.I. Baseball. Madden. God of War, I like too. And Call of Duty.
DN: And we have to assume that a baseball player is the master at baseball games, right? So give us one piece of advice for pitching in MLB The Show.
SABATHIA: They’ve done a good job with guys’ motions with how their pitch action is. You have to pitch inside. You have to really have a real pitching thought process. The key is you gotta throw in a little bit. Always throw in, get them off the plate.
Downside to the downloadable version of Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Nintendo 3DS? It’ll eat up loads of space on your memory card . . . Underrated tablet to watch this summer: Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z, the slimmest 10.1-inch tab on the market . . . Warner Bros. has announced Dying Light, an upcoming first-person survival horror actioner with serious potential. It’s worth watching for on next-gen and current-gen consoles in 2014 . . . PC gamers, get ready for Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition on your machines this summer, a full MK release with all the DLC trimmings . . .
Source: NY Daily News