Talking To The Xbox

Scott Lambert

This Friday will see the launch of the Xbox One, which features built-in Bing to power its searches –and a whole new way of using it. This will be the first Microsoft product to let users search simply by speaking. It is powered by deep neural network technology, helping it to understand natural questions – but can it deliver?

“When we watched Star Trek decades ago, the idea of talking to a computer seemed like pure science fiction,” says the Bing blog. This may come as surprise to those who have been shouting at their computers for decades, but the machines were not generally expected to react. Bing goes on to say: “Fast forward to the present and your voice has replaced the remote control for your living room with Xbox One, an all-in-one games and entertainment system with sophisticated voice navigation and natural language voice search powered by Bing and Kinect.”

The Xbox One is primarily geared toward entertainment and this is likely to limit the kind of questions it is usually asked, making the e questions easier to anticipate. It may be worth thinking about for those promoting entertainment-related products, as previous voice-based systems have run into difficulties with the kind of acronyms and deliberately unusual spellings that are common in the entertainment industry. At this stage it is not clear whether the system will become familiar with its user’s voice or rely on a general set of expected phonemes; if the latter, it could run into similar problems to those that Siri has run into when it encounters unusual accents, in turn creating major problems for some users.

At the core of the Xbox One’s search system are specific command phrases that must be used to introduce each question. There are a number of these and they seem flexible enough to cover most eventualities. More problematic, though, is that the Xbox One is always listening, even when in standby mode, and its command phrases are equally likely to come up in natural speech. This could lead to a lot of automatically triggered searches for things such as a cup of coffee or more sleep.

Bing says that it has spent years working to resolve common problems in other voice-based systems. Whether this will prove useful in the real world remains to be seen; however, if it does, it is another step on the road to more fully-integrated systems.

Scott Lambert

Written by Scott Lambert

For 35 years, Scott has been at the forefront of digital transformation and how it is effectively applied in businesses and organizations to market, sell, and support customers and members more successfully and cost effectively. Scott is President and Co-Founder of Xcellimark, an award-winning digital marketing agency serving clients throughout the U.S., Canada, Central America, and Germany. Xcellimark helps businesses succeed through the implementation of its unique digital marketing and sales approach specifically designed to meet their specific goals and objectives. Scott’s marketing, sales, and operations experience have included key management positions at industry leaders including AT&T, iXL (now SapientRazorfish), eSchool Solutions (now TalentED), and BellSouth, where he led the product development, marketing efforts, and market launch of BellSouth.net, the second public ISP developed in the U.S. Scott is the author of articles highlighted on leading online publishers such as LinkedIn, Business 2 Community, and he was recently featured by LinkedIn in the Entrepreneur magazine article on “No Time for Marketing? Hire a Freelancer.” His engaging personality and wealth of real-world and business experience make Scott a frequently requested speaker. Some of his engagements include being the featured speaker in a series of Orlando Business Journal seminars on Digital Marketing, speaking at the WSI London conference, and at international conferences in Belize. Scott has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Mississippi and a Master’s of Science in the Management of Technology from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Scott has been active in global mission efforts and is a board member of Global Teams, a Christian outreach organization. He lives in Winter Springs, FL with his wife Nancy and dog Sadie.

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