Xbox Menus Get Voice & Motion Control

Microsoft is launching a new Xbox 360 dashboard tomorrow, and if you’ve got Kinect, you’re in for some high-tech gadgetry use.

The new-look dashboard, reportedly based on the Metro interface that will feature in Windows 8, is designed to extend use of the motion control device beyond simply playing games. Kinect owners will now be able to use the microphone and cameras on the device to use both voice and gesture controls to navigate around the Xbox’s menu. Users can also control the navigation using a Windows Phone handset as if it were a remote.

The update also integrates the technology in the Bing search engine. That means users should be able to carry out a single search that covers all XBox Live services, including games, videos and music.

Depending on your location, there will be new TV channels added for access through your Xbox, with ESPN and MSNBC Today in the US, as well as access to Netflix and Hulu Plus.

Gamers aren’t left out completely, though. Users will now be able to make game saves online, meaning you can continue a game on a friend’s console without having to carry a USB stick with you. There’ll also be closer integration with Facebook, including an option to automatically post an alert when you are looking for friends to play a particular game online. The same alert can be set to appear on friends’ screens whenever they switch on their console.

The new features all sound impressive, though how much difference they’ll really make is open to question. If the voice recognition or motion control is less than perfect, particularly with accents, it may be that a lot of people decide using the controller to navigate isn’t that much of a chore after all.