On May 21, 2013, Microsoft unveiled its latest console, the Xbox One, which is to be released by the end of the year, almost certainly in time for holiday sales. But while the Xbox One is mostly thought of as a gaming console, its promise goes way beyond playing games. Hidden within the promises of fantasy sports and trending movies is an opportunity to put enterprise-like unified communications tools in your living room. In fact, it might just become the hub of your new home office.
From Immersive Games to Immersive Communication
Microsoft has promised that the Xbox One will have support for third-party apps, but I predict that what is called a "game" will evolve subtly over time. In other words, the very same tools that make "Call of Duty" an immersive experience can also be used to make a conference call, presentation, or webinar seem as if you’re conversing with someone in the same room. (Learn about some of the tactics video games use to hook players in 5 Psychological Tricks Video Games Use to Keep You Playing.)
Xbox One will also use Kinect, a motion-sensing input device that allows users to interact with the device using movement, gestures and voice commands. This feature can also be found in Xbox 360, but the new version has 1080 pixel resolution at 30 frames per second. It also has time of flight, meaning that it uses a variety of methods to measure the movement of an object. Although it has one lens, it has incredible depth perception. It has gesture control, can recognize users personally, and can recognize voices and follow commands. It can also recognize facial patterns and finger movements.
The existing Kinect has already been used in robots, but some experts believe the new version will help propel those robots to the next level, and perhaps even make it possible to use them for delicate surgery. Reportedly, the new Kinect is so sensitive is can read a heartbeat. Imagine the data that doctors and nurses can get from using this device.
Another hyped feature is the new Xbox’s Snap Mode, which allows users to open new windows in the corner of the screen. In its presentation, Microsoft used the example of watching a movie and then calling up a Web browser to find out information about that movie. Imagine how that same tool could be used for business. With a voice command, a video or slide show would pop up beside the person leading the group; with a gesture, the video could be enlarged. Then when the video is over, it could be made to disappear.
Another picture-in-picture feature that has been promised is fantasy sports scores. When players in the NFL, NBA, etc., score points, those points are added in real time to a fantasy league scoreboard and shown on the screen. This is a technology that could be opened up to other enterprises as well. We might see testing done on a product or real-time feedback on an indie film screening. Businesses might be able to post sales figures on the screen, using their own software to show the best sales representative, or what person, company, or package is making the company the most money. If e-commerce websites figure out a way to tap into the social side of Xbox Live, it could be a path to better sales recommendations and maybe even more upselling.
The video resolution of the Xbox One supports 4k resolution and even 3D. 4K resolution is about four times today’s Blu-Ray movie resolution, and approaches that of movie theater screens. Avatars are expected to be more human in appearance as well. At the time of writing, 4K resolution is available, but is far too expensive for the home consumer. Even so, the price of this feature will inevitable go down to the point where enterprises and the public sector may be able to afford them, and it will fall within the limited budgets of small business owners. Of additional interest to enterprise is that using Skype on a 4K TV will be comparable to Polycom and Cisco’s telepresence systems. Only time will tell if Microsoft wants these other tech giants as partners or competitors.
The Power of the Cloud
The Xbox has yet to be released, but one thing is for certain: It does far more than just games. Microsoft has said that the Xbox One has the power of the cloud, which makes more and better communication with friends, families and even business associates possible. One major goal Microsoft has is to unify the television experience. As a result, the tools that could put unified communications and collaboration tools in your living room are on the table.