Apple TV has Siri. Fire TV has Alexa. And now the Xbox will have Microsoft’s own virtual assistant, Cortana. The company this morning announced a summer update for its Xbox One that will include support for Cortana along with other improvements aimed at unifying the gaming console with the Windows 10 platform, and more. The update will initially arrive for those beta testers in the “Xbox Preview” program, says Microsoft.
Cortana won’t be limited to gaming-related functions when it arrives, although those will be the heavier focus. The assistant – which users activate by saying “Hey Cortana” before their command – will allow gamers to find new games, see what friends are doing, start a party, perform common tasks, and turn on the Xbox (if you’re using Kinect), and more. However, you’ll also be able to do things like get search results from Bing or get info on nearby restaurants, reports Engadget. And if you use Cortana on other platforms, your notebook and history will also be available. Microsoft says more features will come to Cortana over time.
The digital assistant will be available to Preview testers in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Spain first, the company notes, as the update is rolling out in waves instead of all at once. After the update reaches the Preview audience and the Xbox One, it will then arrive on the Xbox app (beta) on Windows 10.
Its arrival is long overdue – Microsoft was expected to enable Cortana on the Xbox One Preview before the end of last year.
This will be the first of two planned updates coming this summer, focused on Cortana, unifying the Xbox and Windows Stores, and bringing top PC games with Game Hubs to Xbox Live.
While Cortana’s integration is the most notable news, other changes include a new Game Collection interface for browsing titles; the expansion of the Facebook Friend Finder from the Xbox app to Xbox One; improved sharing of screenshots, GameDVR clips, and achievements on Xbox One; bringing PC games like League of Legends and XCOM 2 to Xbox Live; a more personalized Activity Feed; and, as also noted above, the convergence of the Xbox Store and Windows Store.
This latter change is part of the broader decision at Microsoft to unify its PC and Xbox One platforms. The store will allow gamers to filter, browse and search results by genre, watch for sales, read reviews, and more. However, the Xbox One can’t run Universal Windows Apps, which allows game developers to write games that run on the console, PC and tablets or Windows Phone. But unifying the storefronts is a step in that direction.