Microsoft absolutely love to tinker and redesign their system software, transforming the layout and functionality of what their consoles offer. So buckle up for yet another Xbox One dashboard overhaul, as the company has unveiled a refresh of the look they’ve kept since 2017 and put it into testing with Xbox Insiders.
They’ve also announced a change to voice commands on the console, leaning further away from on-console commands with Cortana and toward cloud-based AI through other devices.
Now in testing for Alpha and Alpha Skip Ahead testers, the ‘Home Experiment’ still has the familiar tile-based look, but rejigs the front page and alters how you get to some parts of the system software. You still have the active app or game automatically selected, but ‘My games & apps’ and recently used apps and games are now increased in number from three to five and horizontally to the right, as opposed to below.
Instead, you’ll now find the tabs, or twists as Microsoft called them, for Game Pass, Mixer, Community and the Store in a set of four buttons below the active app. I’ll personally miss the convenience of being able to tab through them with the shoulder buttons, but this might improve the responsiveness of the system if less stuff has to live in the background.
However, one thing that remains controversial is the Discover section with three large cards that can advertise games and services like Game Pass and Mixer, or notify you of what your friends are up to. There’s more screen real estate devoted to this, it seems, but this is actually a reduction and simplification from the current theme with two large and three small elements. On the whole, while ads on the homepage will never be popular, it still feels like the right direction.
Another thing that will change is Microsoft’s attitude to voice commands. While the system launched with integrated voice through Kinect, Microsoft’s pivot away from the camera system came alongside the introduction of on-system Cortana voice commands, tying in with their Siri and Alexa rival.
But now they’re getting into bed with Amazon with last year’s introduction of an Xbox Skill for Cortana and Alexa devices. These relay voice commands to your Xbox via the cloud, and Microsoft see this as the future. As such, they’re no longer supporting on-console Cortana, meaning she will no longer work with headsets, and will instead push you to use Cortana via iOS, Android, and Windows, or Alexa devices.
Mercifully, if you’re still using Kinect for basic commands, these are still seemingly supported.
"Xbox, on" style commands, via the Kinect, are still supported.
— Harrison Hoffman (@harrisonhoffman) July 24, 2019