Xbox Kinect voice is a major letdown for me so far
I was really excited for the Media features of the XB1 but so far it's just a frustrating mess of voice commands, bad user experiences and limited compatibility.
First off, it does not support Bell Canada Receivers. I assumed it would work as there are only 2 major cable providers in Canada, one would think they could get it working with them both (I have no idea if rogers works). This one is on me because it was my assumption, but still, it shows a lack of compatibility for a highly touted feature. I guess they could always add it later.
I have my AV Receiver plugged into the Xbox's passthru HDMI port. The idea being I could switch inputs and the "Watch TV app" would bring up my Sat box or HTPC depending on the input I had selected. The plan was to switch inputs with my voice, but that is out the window because Microsoft has never heard of Onkyo receivers. Again, what is with such limited compatibility for something that is supposed to be a "One Device". Disappointing.
So now I can't switch channels with my voice or control my AVR with my voice. The dream of the Xbox taking me controller-less has so far failed miserably. Maybe having the Xbox interface on-top of my TV and HTPC will add some value.
So let's talk about the voice commends. There is pretty much nothing good about them. For one, the lag is terrible. When you say "Xbox" it takes a bit for the screen to come up that shows you the commands. And that is only if it hears you, which it won't probably 25% of the time. Once it's listening to you there is only a limited amount of things you can do, a set list of hardcoded commands. The one thing I found particularly baffling is if I'm in an app, and say "Xbox", it brings me to the hardcoded commands page, instead of activating voice commands for the app I'm in. To then get back to the app to start using voice I have to say "go back". This just adds more "clunk" to an already clunky system.
Here is a great example of how the voice commands fall apart when trying to do something simple. After installing Xbox Music I attempted to play a band. I said "Xbox Play Music Chevelle". Now, to me, that's a completely logical command. I'm initiating voice with "Xbox", giving it the hardcoded command "Play Music" and then telling it what music to play "Chevelle". Nothing happens. So now I'm looking at my screen trying to figure out how to get this "media machine" to simply play a song from Chevelle, any song, I don't care what one.
So instead of my one command, here is how you have to accomplish this.
- "Xbox Bing" (brings you to bing, asks you to "say what to search for"; because saying "Xbox Bing Chevelle" would have been too easy)
- "Chevelle" (searches for Chevelle)
- "Chevelle" (chooses Chevelle from the search list and opens the artist page in Xbox Music)
- "Start Radio" or "Play top songs" (both of these basically accomplish what I was looking for)
So 0 thought was put into making this a fluid experience for the user. The best way I can put it is the voice commands control the UI, not the experience. You are in no way controlling the Xbox with your voice, it is not doing your bidding, you are just browsing with your voice.
For example, let's say from here I want to do something else in the Xbox Music app; I'm currently in the Artist Exploration page for Chevelle. I say "Xbox, go back" which activates the voice commands for the Xbox Music App. Now I have only 5 options, Go back, Play top songs, Start Radio, Add top songs, Pin to Home. "Go back" takes me to Bing, where I came from, and the other 4 options do not take me back to the Xbox Music home screen. So let's try "Xbox, go to Xbox Music" nope, that takes me back to where the app left off, on the Chevelle Artist page. How do I get back to the Xbox Music home page?!? If there is a way, it's not readily apparent to the user, nor is it intuitive.
The only way to do it was to use my hand gestures to hit the "go back" arrow in the top left-hand corner. Here is where the experience becomes really disjointed. When in voice command mode the button has the words "go back" underneath it, and saying those words took me back to my Bing Chevelle search results. But out of voice command mode that back button takes me to the Xbox Music Home page, where I actually wanted to go. Like what!?
So now I'm finally at the XB Music home page, time to search for a song. I see the Search tile is on the Xbox Music homepage, so let's fire up those voice commands for one last failure. "Xbox, go back", "search". Alright so now I'm at a search page, with the on screen keyboard displayed and a big white input bot. "Foo Fighters".... nothing "Foo Fighters"... nothing... Oh I see, you had no problem taking my voice as input in the bing app, but since this is a completely different app you can't accept my voice as input. Gotcha, time to get the controller out YET AGAIN. Fail, fail, fail.
If you want an even more frustrating experience try navigating Skydrive with your voice in a folder that has more than 10 photos. You'll be saying "next" till you're blue in the face. How was this an approved method of navigation???? Also they black out the photos to put the "item number" on them when in voice control. Making it really hard to see what the photo IS. Another thing that just makes me shake my head.
Can they make this better? Maybe, that all depends if they know what's wrong. I've has this thing for 3 hours and I am already frustrated. They have been working on this for years and not one person at Microsoft said "wait guys, this might suck", so that's not a good sign.
Microsoft is certainly capable of making great products, the Surface 2 I have has exceeded my expectations. Speaking of the surface, it's supposed to be able to Mirracast to the XB1, yet it can't find the Xbox when I go to devices. Also the XB1 is not listed as a Play to DLNA target. So that shit doesn't work either.
If you were to compare this to the PS4 I would say they are on par media wise, everything MS has promised is simply smoke and mirrors and they could have left the Kinect separate as it's adding no value what-so-ever.