Rumors have been swirling for months about Microsoft’s plans to integrate virtual assistants such as Alexa with the Xbox One console, and Windows Central has uncovered some evidence that such a move may come sooner than expected.
A screenshot reportedly from an upcoming Xbox One build shows a “digital assistants” section added to the Preferences menu, which would presumably allow you to enable Cortana, Google Assistant, or Alexa for the console using a smart speaker rather than a microphone.
The website details how a further menu allows installation of various Xbox skills to the platform, allowing such things as voice commands through smart speakers without having to fumble for a microphone and headset. Such an expansion of the Xbox One capabilities would certainly make sense, now that Kinect has been relegated to the scrap heap and Cortana has transitioned to a voice app without a dedicated hardware component (not yet, anyway).
For those wondering about my actual JOB I’m going to help figure out how to grow Alexa/Echo presence in gaming. It’s a different spin on what I’ve done before but still keeps me close to the industry. Going to be a fun adventure I can tell already. Cool ideas? Hit me up.
— Albert Penello (@albertpenello) May 23, 2018
A senior Xbox executive also recently jumped ship for Amazon after 18 years with Microsoft. Former console marketing lead Albert Penello, who was instrumental in the launch of the original Xbox back in 2000, announced his new position in May on Twitter, saying that “I’m going to help figure out how to grow Alexa/Echo presence in gaming.”
The full extent of the voice command interaction is just speculation at this point, but it could restore some of the Kinect features that many Xbox owners had grown accustomed to. There are some game-specific Alexa Skills available, but console integration would likely streamline the whole process. Not only would such an upgrade allow voice commands for specific games, it will almost certainly include voice navigation capabilities for the other entertainment apps available on Xbox One as well.
The leaked screenshot seems to indicate than this capability is nearly complete, and an official announcement will likely be coming soon. With E3 right around the corner, we’ll probably be hearing more about this in the days and weeks ahead.