Hands-on with Microsoft's new digital assistants feature on Xbox One

Xbox One
Xbox One (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft is letting gamers use their Alexa or Cortana enabled devices with the Xbox One, taking advantage of all the old Kinect-based voice commands that used to use before Kinect was shoved to the side. Now, you can use them again, all thanks to a new skill Microsoft is releasing for Cortana and Alexa.

Related: Best Alexa and Cortana voice speakers for Xbox One

We've gone hands on with the new feature, which is currently in testing with Xbox Insiders. From our initial impressions, it works rather well. Although, it is somewhat slower than if you were using the commands natively on the Xbox One console with Kinect back in the day.

How the voice commands work through the digital assistants feature is the command is sent up the cloud and back down to your Xbox, acting as a passthrough rather than sending the command directly to the Xbox using a mic or Kinect. This is why it's a bit slower, but all the commands you could use before still work.

There is one additional step in saying voice commands now however. Instead of just saying "Hey Cortana, launch Halo: The Master Chief Collection," you now have to say "Hey Cortana (or Alexa), tell Xbox to launch Halo: The Master Chief Collection." It's an additional step, which is rather annoying. The trade-off is that you can now launch a game even when your console is an off state, since the Xbox doesn't need to be switched on to receive commands.

Overall, this early implemtation of the new digital assistants feature is pretty cool. I wish it was faster, and I also wish it'd work 100 percent of the time. I often find it'll forget that I've already setup the feature, and ask me to set it up again. Re-asking the command usually works though. Of course, it's still in beta, so when it launches to the public fully, hopefully, it'll have a bit more polish behind it.

What do you think of this new functionality? Let us know in the comments.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads