Talking tech since 2003

“Xbox, play Mass Effect 3.”

This is one of the many commands you can use to start a game if your Xbox 360 is equipped with a Kinect sensor. And if you speak in a clear voice. And if you roll a dice and land on 7 during a solar eclipse. Okay, so the Xbox 360’s voice recognition isn’t that great. But if sources in touch with The Verge are correct, the voice recognition in the next-generation Xbox console will be a lot better.

How much better? Think about something like Siri or Google Now on the Xbox. That much better.

The new Xbox, which is code-named “Durango,” is said to have both improved natural speech recognition, as well as text-to-speech capabilities. The latter means that you might be able to reply to someone’s Xbox Live text message without needing a Chat Pad, or without having to type all of the individual letters one by one. As far as natural speech recognition goes, it’s rumored that you’ll be able to dictate instructions to your Xbox in order to have it perform certain tasks, like showing which games your friends are playing. You’ll also be able to do all of the things you can do currently with a Kinect-equipped Xbox 360, such as start games and movies, and search on Bing.  The emphasis on “natural” seems to indicate that you’ll be able to do so more informally, rather than barking out specific commands.

The Kinect’s voice control feature was supposed to bring a lot of new experiences to video games, but unfortunately, we haven’t really seen it happen yet. Sure, you can change equipment in Skyrim or alter a receiver’s route in Madden 13, but those games have a limited number of commands. They aren’t trying to understand what you’re saying; rather, they’re waiting to hear a certain word or phrase that corresponds to an in-game action. With natural speech recognition built into the next Xbox, it’s conceivable that you could directly interact with other in-game characters using your voice. Imagine an RPG where you walk up to a NPC and speak out loud to ask him a question. That’s just one of the possibilities when this technology is put into play on a game console.

Microsoft is set to show off the next-generation Xbox at this year’s E3 (June 11-13), though the company may opt to do its own special event prior to the Expo. We’ll undoubtedly learn more about the new Xbox in bits and pieces before then, so stay tuned.


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