Microsoft Xbox One getting a $25 Media Remote to supplement Kinect

Credit: Source: Xbox Wire

The Xbox One Kinect's voice control gets beat up on a lot in comments whenever it's mentioned in a blog post. Maybe I'm lucky but I've been pretty happy with how well it works. I've seen people say something like "If it only works 80% of the time it's a failure" but my conventional remote only works about 80% of the time, and I don't have to fumble around in the semi-dark to find the Kinect. In any case I'd say Kinect works closer to 90% of the time for us. Put another way, it works well enough that we're somewhat surprised when it doesn't.

Gesture commands, though...they are an absolute mess in our house. Honestly I'm not sure how to trigger them, but sometimes I trigger them accidentally and suddenly there's a floating hand on-screen for no apparent reason.

This is a drag because there are times when voice controls, even if they work, just aren't efficient. Browsing through titles on Netflix, for example. Saying "Next Page, Next Page, Next Page" is tedious. In theory gesture commands should come to the rescue but in my experience they don't. The only alternative is to grab the controller, turn it on, give it a second to 'connect' to the Xbox One and then continue on with what you're doing. I use the controller all the time for games so once it's on it works fine, but my girlfriend is a PC gamer and using the controller is an awkward experience for her.

But now there's good news. Microsoft is set to release the $24.99 Xbox One Media Remote in early March (Microsoft doesn't give an exact date but leaks/rumors say March 4th).

It looks like a fairly basic remote, but it does have buttons that light up when you pick the thing up, which is a nice feature to find in a cheap-ish device. It'll control the Xbox One of course, but it'll also control power and volume on your TV or receiver (another area where voice controls are fairly cumbersome) via Kinect. If your Xbox One can turn your TV on and off and raise/lower the volume now, you should be good to go with this remote.

There's also a dedicated OneGuide button which should make changing channels easy (though changing channels is a place where I love voice commands because I just tell the Xbox One what channel I want to watch and don't have to remember what the channel number is).

This is going to be a Day 1 purchase for our household, and it'll make the Xbox One our media center of choice, since Sony doesn't yet offer a media remote for the PS4 (and the media remote for the PS3 won't work with the PS4). I'm seeing a lot of comments along the lines of "The media remote is proof that Kinect has failed." but I don't see it like that at all. I see it as an excellent supplemental device for when voice just isn't the best control method.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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