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Kinect, Netflix, and Voice! Oh, My!

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Netflix instant watch apps appearing on various devices is nothing new, but with the advancement of the Xbox 360 functionality via Kinect, Netflix decided to integrate both gesture support and voice command into its existing Xbox 360 app. Bryon Greene tells you what works well, what doesn’t, and whether your controller is going to start collecting dust.

Microsoft Xbox was the first gaming console to get an HD Netflix app in 2008 and is continuing this trend of firsts by getting the first voice controlled Netflix app in 2011. On April 14, Netflix released a Kinect-enabled version of its app, offering control of your movie watching experience through gestures and voice from the comfort of your sofa.

Getting Started with Kinect

Although Kinect supports voice command, turning on the Xbox requires pressing the on/off button on the console or from the controller. This brings you to your traditional Xbox dashboard with one exception: a PIP (picture in picture) grayscale screen on the bottom-right hand of your screen.

This PIP is a live, three-dimensional representation of you from the perspective of the Kinect sensor. Waving your hand or simply speaking "Xbox Kinect" is all that it takes to launch a Kinect-friendly dashboard that Microsoft calls "Kinect Hub."

When you first arrive at the Kinect Hub, you will notice every app or option is compartmentalized into a tidy little square tile icon not unlike Windows Phone 7 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Kinect hub

Although a quick tap of the tile on a Windows Phone 7 will suffice, on Kinect you must move your hand in the air to control the hand icon on the screen. Position the hand icon over a tile for three seconds, and the app associated with the tile will launch.

Depending on how much you have used the "Kinect ID" option for fine-tuning the facial recognition, you might or might not be logged in automatically by now. If not, you can simply hover your hand over the "Sign In" tile or speak "Xbox Sign In."

However, once on the sign-in screen you must use the gesture support to hover over your avatar tile to complete the process (see Figure 2). I don't see why they couldn't have integrated voice support into the sign-in screen, but at least you still don't need to use a controller. From this point forward, you can use gesture, voice, or a combination of the two with a couple of caveats.

Figure 2 Gesture-enabled sign-in screen

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