Monday, February 11, 2013

XBOX Media Center, Kinect + Bing, and Smartglass pack quite the punch!

Today on Tech News Today they were talking about smart TVs, the limits of their user interfaces/remote controls, and the ability to easily find content across multiple applications. They said the Apple and Google TV products had some issues, but I was surprised that nobody mentioned the XBOX with Bing search and Kinect voice controls. I have been using the XBOX 360 and a Windows 7 Home Theater PC (with Cable Card tuner) as my DVR of choice for over 4 years now and it still consistently meets or exceeds my expectations when it comes to having a "smart television":

  1. CableCard+Centon multi-stream tuner records up to 4 full HD shows at once directly from Comcast
  2. Integrated TV Guide (with free updates) makes searching and selecting TV shows very easy
  3. XBOX 360 as a "Media Center Extender" lets me watch in multiple rooms
  4. Multiple input options: standard remote control, XBOX wireless controller, or Kinect for hands free control of XBOX video and search features (no support yet in Media Center however)
  5. New SmartGlass application for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone provides "2nd screen" content and some limited remote control options (works well with the new IE browser on XBOX)
  6. Unlimited storage on HTPC and it can stream ripped DVDs, movies, music, and pictures too
  7. Bing search provides exactly the content search feature that Tom was asking about (See video below)
  8. Microsoft has recently added many of the popular online media services to XBOX Live (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Flixster, MTV, HBO, FOX, Slacker Radio, Vimeo, Youtube, etc)
  9. XBOX Music and Video marketplace has a large selection of TV and Movies available for purchase (I have often used these if my DVR misses an episode)
  10. Windows Media Center has a very high Wife/Girlfriend Acceptance Factor and requires very limited support once it is setup
  11. The recently released Internet Explorer app on XBOX 360 works very well for watching TNT and other TWIT shows on the big screen :-P
For Tom's example of finding where to watch "The Following", I was able to use the Kinect and simply say "XBOX Bing The Following" to quickly find episodes on XFinity (Comcast's online Video On Demand), Hulu Plus, Xbox Video Marketplace, VUDU, and even directly from the Fox App (although this requires a Verizon or Dish Network subscription to work on XBOX for some reason). I recorded a video of the process and uploaded it to (Best viewed in HD)

I will admit I usually use a normal remote control or XBOX controller with chat keyboard instead of Kinect, but there are times that using voice control can come in handy (and some of the games are still wicked cool). Sadly Windows 8 now requires that you purchase Media Center as a separate add-on from the Windows Store, but hopefully that means they will invest more resources into adding new features and better integrating it into the next XBOX console.