Another use for Cortana (and Alexa): Controlling Microsoft's Xbox

Cortana- and Alexa-powered devices soon will enable users to control many of their Xbox One console activities using their voice.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is continuing to try to reposition Cortana from an "assistant" to an "assistance" aide. Today, the company took another step to realize that vision by starting to enable Cortana-powered devices to control its Xbox One console. Alexa-enabled devices are going to be able to do the same, by the way.

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The Xbox team is adding a new Xbox Skill to allow users to use voice commands to do tasks like turning on and off their Xbox One consoles; adjust volume; launch games and apps; start and stop broadcasts on Mixer; capture screenshots and clips and more. That Xbox Skill will work with Cortana- and Alexa-enabled devices including Windows 10 PCs, Amazon Echo, Harman Kardon Invoke, Sonos One; and iOS and Android devices with the Cortana and/or Alexa apps.

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Once Microsoft stopped bundling the Kinect sensor with Xbox One, and later, ceased making Kinects all together, there wasn't a way for users without a headset to use voice commands to control the Xbox console, since there are no built-in microphones in the console. Today's announcmenet is a start to remedying that situation.

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is starting to test this new skill with U.S.-based Xbox Insiders starting today. The Xbox team will roll out the skill to more testers gradually via the Insider program. There's no word yet on when the Xbox Skill will be available to mainstream users and those outside the U.S.

I asked Microsoft if today's Xbox Skill announcement is connected in any way to the Amazon-Microsoft partnership around Alexa and Cortana integration, which the companies announced a year ago.

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"This is separate from the Cortana and Alexa integration. Meaning right now you can invoke either assistant on Xbox One through the skill, but you can't at this time invoke one assistant via the other," a spokesperson told me.

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