Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Second Review of the new XboxLive Media UX

This morning, the Xbox Live infrastructure was working well.  I have to admit that the combination of voice commands and gestures is a powerful idea.  As you can imagine, this initial implementation feels like a beta product.  In addition to the traffic problems they experienced last night (see previous blog), they also have some kinks to work out in the transition between the 3 kinds of input: gesture, voice, and the classic controller.

The main menu is clean and easy to use.  Saying "Xbox Video" or "Xbox Music" works well.  Saying "Xbox" alone gets you presented with command options--also helpful.  The gestures at this level work reasonably well, too, allowing you to swipe in between the major sets.

As you pop into the next level of the system, problems start to present themselves.  For example, there are no voice commands to allow you to play the trailer, look at the actors/cast of the title, etc.  You can get there thru the gesture process, but it's not intuitive on some of the items (swiping up and down for scrolling on information did not work so well).

Then, if you try to move around in settings, social, etc, you are suddenly presented with "This requires a controller, ok?" type question.  Then you are back to good old fashion Xbox navigation.  While for all the hardcore gamers out there, this won't seem like an issue, I think it is a real indication of the beta status.  With only 6 or 7 major root menu branches, and a finite level of options on the 1st level for each of them, the number of voice and gestures that would need to be integrated is relatively small (ie < 1000).  It seems they launched anyway, knowing the gamers would forgive them (though the gamers are not asking for this new UX....).

There are also portions where it is clear you are moving between apps (Xbox Live Video Marketplace from Zune, vs. the Music one, vs. ESPN, etc).  At the point, the exit and entries are inconsistent and there is a 5 second black screen to deal with, etc.

Despite all of that, this is a POWERFUL idea (gestures + voice), and one step ahead of the much-blogged-about Siri controlled Apple TV--though I would be surprised if Siri-driven Apple TV were to launch in beta (despite Siri itself being a beta product still).  I also think a SecondScreen option here (with swipe gestures and voice) would be even easier to use because the 10-foot gestures are often hard to control.

We'll see.

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