new content options, including both Web-based video and live broadcast TV. It marks a significant step in the device's evolution from a gaming console to an all-in-one entertainment hub, which Microsoft hopes will be the digital heart of every family's living room.Tomorrow, Microsoft will push out a huge update to its XBox Live platform, adding a host of
The update also brings improved voice search capabilities to the platform, which allows viewers to simply ask for a given TV show, movie or video game and have it pop up on the screen. It's not unlike what many people think Steve Jobs was dreaming up for the upcoming Apple HDTV, and indeed it's something a few developers have already started to cobble together by hacking Siri.
By itself, the fact that a product like the XBox 360 is getting better voice controls is not huge, breaking news. But in the broader context of where human-computer interaction appears to be heading, it's pretty interesting.
The XBox 360 adds this feature on top of an already revolutionary user interface control mechanism in the Kinect. Users can swipe through Netflix movies by reaching out and waving their hand right to left, for example. From browsing content to playing complex video games without a handheld controller, the Kinect has already begun to change the way people interact with machines. Like Siri, it was also hacked by users, leading to a wide range of new uses and applications, some of which Microsoft is even willing to pay developers to create.
Kinect, Siri and the Future of Human-Machine Interaction
The iPhone 4S has only been available for a matter of weeks, but already users are growing accustomed to verbally asking their phones for information. Aside from a few gaffes and the occasional abortion controversy, people seem to be pretty enamored with Siri, which is already being hacked to do things Apple never intended. If the company follows Microsoft's lead and embraces the fact that users are creatively tinkering with its product, we could see voice control built into apps and controlling everyday appliances and objects. Then again, this is Apple we're talking about.
Voice search. Wireless motion-based control. Multitouch screens. In just the last few years, we've seen several viable glimpses of what the future of human-computer interaction will look like. It's not just one big tech company pushing the envelope. Several companies big and small are doing their part. It's worth recalling that each of these innovations is very much in its early days. Imagine what things will look like a decade from now.