The new Xbox 360 Dashboard update is here, and if you've had the chance to read my previous article that talks about the new notable features, you already know that it is extremely Kinect focused. And why not, the Kinect is essentially Microsoft's way of increasing the shelf life of the Xbox 360.
If you think back to the previous dashboard, users were able to access a Kinect-specific menu by a simple wave of the hand or a voice command. This brought them to a simple menu that only offered a few, Kinect-specific things, but if you ever actually wanted to get the most out of browsing through everything Xbox Live has to offer, it had to be done with a controller. The new dashboard gets rid of a Kinect-specific menu in favor of a unified menu system that is both easily navigated by a controller, or through the power of Kinect. But was this truly necessary?
Besides the fact that voice command get you from point A to point B much quicker than a controller ever would, using the Kinect to move around the menus amounts mostly to nothing more than a spectacle–something to show off to your friends and family so they can be amused that you're magically moving around menus Minority Report style in front of your TV.
Trying to navigate using the Kinect isn't bad, however. It's functional, provided you're in good lighting, and let's face it, moving things with our hands and pretending we're using The Force is always a great time. However, most of my time spent on Xbox Live is browsing new additions, downloading various demos or DLC content, or seeing who's currently playing what and hopping right into their game. If I was trying to do any of these actions using gesture-based moves, sure I might look cool doing it (or possibly look like a fool doing it), but it would also take me twice as long. I could easily just press the d-pad a couple times and be done with it.
I have to admit–the voice command feature is probably the best addition in this new Dashboard Update. Getting from the Bing Search all the way to the Apps can be done in one single command, which would normally take six taps of the Right Bumper. Using Bing itself is just as easy, and brings up all relevant info in just a few seconds after you've said it. But again, it ends up being counterintuitive when trying to browse through your Netflix Queue, simply because you can't search for a specific name of a show or a movie; instead, you must rely on continuously saying Next or Previous to scroll through your current selection. This is something that is just unnecessary when a simple controller input has you browsing through thousands of movies much quicker.
I'm not trying to knock the technology behind the Kinect. If anything, I am just as impressed with the technology as I was when it was first unveiled (though I still wish Milo was a real game) I just think that putting emphasis on something that doesn't come standard with the console isn't exactly the right move. Yet again, those without it can still appreciate everything the new dashboard has to offer, albeit now with a few more menus to get through.