The yearly Xbox Live Dashboard update is coming up soon, and Microsoft showed me a brief demo recently of some of the changes they're making. Cosmetically, the system will do away with the separate menus for Kinect and non-Kinect users -- everything is going to be modeled after the more stylized Kinect interface. And the team is also refining Kinect's voice recognition abilities, working on speeding up the menu transition a bit, and ensuring that at any point you can use whatever control method you want. So, if you have a controller in your hand, it's not going to be useless just because you're using gesture or voice inputs.
But the most impressive aspect about the service will be the ability to search for content across all your available multimedia. They showed an example of doing a search for "Batman" from the main menu. Within a few seconds a full list of offerings came up: Batman DLC for Arkham Asylum, the original Batman movie available for download, etc. And with another button press (or by just saying "show movies" you're able to narrow that down further into what you might be looking for.
But that's not the impressive part; what I was surprised by is that the search covers all the services open to you. It'll show Batman movies on Netflix, and as other TV offerings get finalized, it'll show what's available there as well. So, if you have a subscription to multiple services, like Netflix, and a TV cable operator, you won't have to go through those apps individually to try and find what you're looking for.
I'm also curious to try out the added social media options. In addition to the now standard ability to tie many games' progress to Twitter and Facebook (an annoying way to brag about your achievements) Microsoft is putting in a system that makes it easier to meet up with your friends in the game's you play most often by setting up dedicated alerts and options for whichever games you choose.
Since I already rely on Twitter to coordinate gaming sessions between far-flung friends, I like the idea of Microsoft integrating a dedicated system that tracks when my friends are playing certain games, and when they're looking for teammates.
It'll be a while yet before I get to try the dashboard in a real-world setting, but while these are just small tweaks compared to some of the major changes Microsoft has made over the years, I'm still happy to see these kind of simple, functional improvements.
This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Microsoft's Xbox Live Fall Update Makes Searching for TV and Movies Easier