Xbox One’s May beta is chock full of surprises.
The now monthly incremental evolution of the Xbox One continues during May. The update rolled out for preview users last week and it seems focused solely on audio improvements. Added to the settings menu is the Sound Mixer. This gives the user the ability to determine the volume levels for the main program versus the snapped app. Think about a radio balance dial where moving the dial to the left provides louder volume for the main app and moving the dial to the right favors the volume of the snapped app. [NOTE: This was added to April beta but was removed before the official update was released] Additionally, there is a Chat Mixer. This option allows the user to determine what happens to the volume when chatting via the Kinect. The options are: mute all non-Kinect audio, reduce non-Kinect audio 80%, reduce non-Kinect audio 50%, or do nothing. Lastly, there is an option to opt into the Kinect voice recognition training program. This optional program gives the user the opportunity to help make the Kinect more responsive for all users.
Concurrent to the release of this console OS beta, Microsoft has also released the Smartglass Beta for Android, iOS, and (obviously) Windows. New features include the ability to completely control your cable box via Smartglass, including DVR functionality. The ability to power down each A/V component is also embedded within this remote control portion of the app. The other TV functionality added is the ability to view, and use your OneGuide directly from Smartglass. This includes the regular guide, favorites, as well as apps that are compatible with the OneGuide. Added to the app’s menu is a Featured section that highlights featured games, movies and music. No, there still is no ability to purchase media from the Smartglass app the same way Sony has with their Playstation mobile app. Accessing snapped apps and switching between them is actually faster using the app than it is even with the controller. The Activity Feed is also on the home screen, meaning that a user doesn’t have to drill down into the Friends list to view it. Great news for all console based Twitch broadcasters: First off, Smartglass notifies users when their friends/favorites are streaming. Twitch streams can be viewed directly from Smartglass or the user can choose to push the chat screen to Smartglass while watching the Twitch stream full screen on their TV.
One of the hot button question since this generation began 6 months ago has been: “What IS next-gen?”. I think the best answer is that next-gen is nuanced. Subtle. It’s the subtlety of these updates that truly scream “next-gen” to me. I’m particularly excited to see what Smartglass can become. The maturation of what it is now versus what it was when it launched October of 2012 is simply amazing!