The Xbox One is a large, black, glossy box meant to rest on its side, with a top-loading optical drive. You can see a 360-degree view of the console below.
While Microsoft didn’t release exact technical specs, we know the Xbox One is running on a 8-core AMD processor with x86 architecture, with 8 gigs of RAM. It features a 500 GB hard drive, three USB 3.0 ports, and a Blu-Ray drive. It features 802.11 n/g/b wireless with Wifi Direct, as well as Bluetooth.
SEE ALSO: Xbox One Compared With PS4 and Wii U
The software running on the Xbox One is more complex. The system has three distinct operating systems running in concert with each other. The first is an upgraded version of the Xbox operating system, the second is based on the Windows NT kernel, and the third helps discussion between the two.
The Xbox One is able to handle multiple processes at once using what Microsoft has dubbed Snap. During Tuesday’s presentation, Yusef Mehdi, SVP of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment branch, demonstrated how he could run a movie, then cue up an Internet Explorer window and have it show the trailer for the sequel.
Microsoft said multitasking is a big feature of the hardware, and the GPU is designed to multitask so you can run several rendering and computation threads at once, according to Todd Holmdahl, Corporate Vice President of Xbox Hardware. Another example used was that players could watch a movie while waiting for in-game matchmaking could find them players, all on one TV.
Microsoft has made its biggest play for the living room yet with the Xbox One. The console has both HDMI out and in, and can interface with your cable set-top box to add an Xbox layer to your viewing.
The Xbox One will hook into your TV guide to help you find the shows and channels you like, and also give viewers a bird’s eye glance at what is trending over the airwaves all over the country. Presumably it will also hook into premium content from your cable provider, such as on-demand shows or the DVR. It will also be able to interface with higher-quality programming coming on the horizon: Microsoft said the console supports 4K input and output and 3D visuals.
Along with finding your channels via the interface, Xbox One will respond to voice commands to like “Play MTV”. Mehdi demonstrated being able to switch channels on stage, all with the sound of his voice. This voice command feature also ties into Microsoft’s second pass at the Kinect.
Voice and gestures seem to control much more on the Xbox One. The console can boot from off just with a simple “Xbox On” Voice command. Mehdi showed how grabbing the screen could zoom into a window, and pushing out brought you back to the home screen.
The Kinect received a major overhaul. The sensor bar, presumably bundled with every Xbox One, can now detect and transmit video at 1080p. It can now see and include six figures into its processing, up from two for the Xbox 360. The sensor can be used and smaller rooms, and players will be able to get closer to the Xbox, according to information Holmdahl revealed during Microsoft’s second broadcast Tuesday.
The Kinect will also be able to detect eye movements, and tell if you are engaged with the console or not. Pairing that with its extreme voice recognition means the Xbox One will know an awful lot about the player. Holmdahl said it will be able to pick up on hand gestures and smaller objects with more precision than its predecessor.
Also integrated is an IR sensor that matches with sensors on the controller. The Kinect will now be able to tell where each controller is in the room, and, thanks to its voice- and face-recognition data, know who is holding what controller.
The controller itself will look familiar on the outside to any fans of the Xbox 360. The button positioning has remained largely the same, though Microsoft has made many tweaks under the hood.
The biggest controller change, along with the above-mentioned IR, is that the triggers on its top provide haptic feedback to the player when pressed. Developers can add feedback for any instance you’d use those buttons to add a level of immersion to the gameplay.
There were also smaller tweaks made to the design. The battery pack on the controller’s rear has been flipped 90 degrees, a blessing for players with longer fingers that always found themselves hitting that during gameplay. The directional pad has also been modified to be more articulated.
The Xbox 360 controllers will not be supported on the Xbox One, Microsoft said.
Despite the limited time allotment for Microsoft’s announcement, the company still managed to feature a lot of games in its presentation.
Xbox Studio head Phil Spencer said 15 Xbox-exclusive titles would be coming to the console within the first year of release, and eight of those would be entirely new franchises. Xbox’s racing franchise Forza would make a return in Forza Motorsport 5.
Also announced as an Xbox One exclusive was Quantum Break, a new game from Remedy Entertainment, creators of Alan Wake and the first two Max Payne games. The trailer, above, delves into a young girl with strange powers.
Third-party publishers have also pledged their involvement with the Xbox One. EA Sports’ Vice President Andrew Wilson took the stage to show off how FIFA 14, Madden 25, NBA Live 14 and EA’s upcoming UFC game. He said EA’s new Ignite engine and Xbox One technology would help “blur the line reality and sports games”.
Activision’s CEO Eric Hirshberg also took the stage to show the first footage from Call of Duty: Ghosts, which would also launch on the Xbox One. Along with showing highly detailed character models made possible by the Xbox One and Infinity Ward’s new engine, Hirshberg also showed a video of the graphical difference between Call of Duty: Ghosts and a series predecessor,Modern Warfare 3.
For gamers with extensive Xbox 360 catalogs, the Xbox One will not be able to play older games. Microsoft said there was no way to make that happen easily because of the dramatic changes made the One’s system architecture.
Of course, one cannot talk about the new Xbox games without talking about Xbox Live, Microsoft’s 11-year-old online gaming platform and social network. Microsoft said player’s accounts will persist from the Xbox 360, with a whole new suite of benefits. Collectible achievements can exist across several games.
Multiplayer gaming can be more personalized, since Microsoft said Live will now give players more options to decide who they want to play with. There will also be a Smart Match system to match players better, and allow them to multitask while waiting for friends.
Skype has also been introduced into Xbox One as a video and audio chat client, and it’s easy to see the effects this will have on gaming between friends.
Microsoft’s SmartGlass is going to be built in from the ground up, executives said, so all games, entertainment and apps will be much easier to tie in for the second-screen experience.
Microsoft’s big message from the presentation was the intersection between gaming and television, and it came to a head when it was announced Halo, Xbox’s beloved sci-fi shooter gaming franchise, would make the transition into a full television show, directed by Steven Spielberg.
The Xbox One also will feature a brand new partnership with the NFL, which will offer viewers the option of watching live football games on the same screen as their fantasy football stats and scores, giving fantasy football an interactive feel.
While there are some big details missing, including the console’s price and release date, it seems we have a clearer picture now of what the Xbox One is, and how it will interact with our living rooms. What do you think of Microsoft’s new console, and do you have any lingering questions? Share your thoughts in the comments.