Microsoft brings Alexa support to Xbox One for Kinect-like voice controls

Xbox One S
Photo by Tyler Pina / The Verge

Microsoft is starting to test Alexa support on the Xbox One today with its Xbox Insiders. The software giant is releasing an Xbox Skill for Alexa that will allow Echo, Sonos, and various other Alexa-enabled devices to control an Xbox One. With the new skill you’ll be able to power on an Xbox One with your voice, launch games, adjust volume, capture screenshots, start broadcasts, and more. Commands will work like “Alexa, start Destiny 2.”

While Microsoft has long supported Kinect on Xbox One to do many of these exact things, as the company is no longer manufacturing Kinect this Alexa integration is clearly the next logical move. There were rumors that Microsoft may include Google Assistant integration on the Xbox One, and it appears that’s now likely. Microsoft says it will “continue to evolve this experience and grow our voice integration across devices, digital assistants, and voice services,” suggesting that we’ll see other voice assistants appear on the Xbox One in the future.

Microsoft Xbox veteran Albert Penello joined Amazon earlier this year to “help figure out how to grow Alexa / Echo presence in gaming,” and this integration is a big boost to Alexa’s presence across services and devices. Microsoft has also been working with Amazon to integrate Alexa and Cortana, and a preview of this feature is available on both Alexa and Cortana.


This is such a neat feature! It feels like the Xbox is slowly achieving its utopian 2013 vision as smart homes become a reality

Except it’s someone else’s vision and if this continues there will be less incentive for anyone to use Cortana, which means Cortana will stagnate while Alexa advances.

It’s kinda sad because had the Xbox One with the Kinect actually been successful Microsoft could’ve expanded Cortana into their own home-based smart speaker with a screen that included a scaled-down Kinect camera with the whole unit on a swivel that tracks your movement.

Imagine being in the kitchen going from stove to pantry to countertop and viewing a recipe or watching a movie/TV show and never having to rubberneck to see the screen. By giving Alexa the same dataset access as Cortana, Microsoft is essentially throwing in the towel on any future potential Cortana might’ve enjoyed thereby knee-capping their own creation.

It would have been successful had Microsoft implemented voice intelligently. The core technology worked wonderfully. The user experience was just poorly implemented.

The user experience was just poorly implemented.

I’m gonna disagree a little because when I saw videos of the Kinect camera auto-logging in based on facial recognition or using Kinect to detect and apply a gift card number was impressive. Maybe it just came down to Microsoft’s inability to market it properly because many of the features they introduced are being used today.

Except it’s someone else’s vision and if this continues there will be less incentive for anyone to use Cortana, which means Cortana will stagnate while Alexa advances.

Using someone else’s technology doesn’t make it someone else’s vision. This is pretty much the same thing Microsoft does across all its services. As long as you’re using Microsoft services, it doesn’t care too much what you use to connect to them.

As long as you’re using Microsoft services…

But that’s just it, Alexa is someone else’s service and if people are using Alexa more than Cortana then Cortana suffers as a result.

Moreover Microsoft doesn’t have a smart speaker or comparable IoT device like an Echo, Home Pod or Google Home they gain almost nothing from giving Alexa the same space and attention as Cortana so I really don’t see how this benefits Microsoft.

I just don’t see how this benefits Microsoft or helps advance Cortana if people suddenly have another choice that does the exact same thing as Cortana but even more since that same data will likely be pushed to Amazon servers.

While iOS has apps for Alexa and Google Assistant neither service has the same level of OS accessibility or are as easy to access so that Siri can still shine.

"Cortana open alexa and ask Cortana what’s up with master chief? Did you break up or something?"

So, Cortana is where? We have time for Alexa, but we are just going to leave Cortana by the wayside?

Since the Xbox alone desn’t have an always listening microphone (see Kinect), they are allowing a different one you have (Alexa) to wake it up, and pass the message along to Cortana within it.

Uh… my $200 (paid $99) Harman Kardon Invoke would beg to differ.

I’ve been expecting this to become a feature eventually.

This is great, but it’s also stupid their own product can’t do this.

Well good. Thanks.

I mean since she went rampant and took control of the guardians… can humanity really trust her anymore?

They did it. They actually did it.

Reminds me of when Microsoft catered to iOS more than their own Windows Phone. Now it seems like Alexa is being catered to more than their own Cortana assistant. A clear sign of things to come.

How so? We’ve had Xbox Cortana support for years now.

The fact this can’t be done with the smart speaker or the hundreds of millions of Windows 10 devices with mics.

Actually, that’s in beta too.

Does this go the other way? If I have Alexa set up to control my Hue lights, for example, can I tell Alexa on my Xbox to change the lights? I’m one of the few people that still has the Kinect sitting under my TV…

Cortana can control the lights directly, just link Hue to Cortana.

Today I learned.
Even from the Xbox?

Answering my own question here. Apparently so. Haven’t tried it yet, but Reddit never lies, right?

Now can we please get HDMI-CEC so that I don’t have to turn my XboneX on and off separately from literally all my other AV stuff?

Not entirely sure how it works, but my AV and TV turn on/off when my xbox turns on/off. Set it up a long time ago when the Xbox One X released so can’t remember if I did anything special. So it definitely is possible.

Still surprised there is no HDMI-CEC though.

Xboxes have RF transmitters to accomplish this. It’s a settings option. Super convenient!

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