Learning to Speak Xbox

“Xbox. Xbox,” I heard Michael talking to the machine. “Xbox!” His voice grew louder. “Xbox! Turn on.” He paused. “Xbox! Turn on.”

The machine must have turned on. He moved on to other commands.

“Xbox. Watch TV. Xbox, watch TV. Watch TV. Xbox, watch TV.”

I went to the living room and found his frustrated face. He sat on the couch, remote control in his hand. He could have used that, but my techno junkie wanted to practice using the voice recognition feature. He said one more time. “Xbox. Watch TV.”

“Com’on, Xbox.” I whistled like I was calling a dog. “Here Xbox. Here, boy,” I said.

Michael rolled his eyes. Never make fun of a man’s new toy.

Our kids caught on to talking to the Xbox very quick. When the Xbox doesn’t follow a command or misunderstands a command they join in yelling at it, too. Sometimes there are four people yelling commands at the Xbox, and it gets confused.

But here’s a cute little ditty. One night, shortly after the New Year, when I was about the manually turn everything off, Reece, who’s two, said, “Xth Bothx. Off. Xxe Bothx. Off.” And that cracked me up.

The Xbox One was the second in technological upgrades we made during the holiday season. During those Thanksgiving weekend sales last fall, I bought us a new television. It was our first TV purchase in 13 years. I thought all 55 inches of flat screen would be enough. But no. We had forgo the Wii and embrace the latest and greatest in gaming, the Xbox One.

If you’re not familiar with the Xbox One, I will give you a quick summary. It is a gaming system. And it is a system that accesses the internet so you can download games, stream movies on Amazon, Netflix or play music on Pandora, or talk to loved ones on Skype. The gaming system is interactive. Gamers don’t need controllers connected to their game box. They can use their bodies and hands to move within the games.

Xbox knows when I enter the room. When I created my avatar and log in, it must have used its camera to scan an image of me into memory. Often, when I cross from the dining room to the living room to the kitchen while the kids are watching TV, the Xbox will display a banner that says Hi to me along with my avatar. It thinks I want to hang out.

photo courtesy of gamespot.com

At first, I would get angry at this stupid gadget. I felt like I was in a foreign country trying to negotiate the price of a scarf with the natives.

The voice recognition works, most of the time. I can’t say, “Xbox. turn to channel ten.” It won’t know what that means. I have to first call the Xbox, wait for the icon at the top of the right side to appear, so I know the machine is listening, then I can give it a command. If I want a certain channel, I have to use the verb “watch” plus the channel name such as NBC. The Xbox highlights the commands and/or words it knows in green.

Up until recently, I’ve been depending on the use of the remote to access the different applications in the system. But our two-year-old poured water into the battery compartment of the remote, so while we are crossing our fingers and hoping a week in a bag of rice drying out will save the $60 gadget, we have to rely solely on voice recognition if we want to do anything beyond watch cable.

Here is a typical scene called Sixteen Commands to a Cartoon.

Me: Xbox. Go to Netflix.

Me: Xbox. Go to Netflix. (pause) Select profile 5. (pause) Select Profile 5.

Xbox goes back to main menu screen.

Me: Xbox. Go to Netflix. (pause) Xbox, select profile 5.

Xbox brings up the show history of Reece. The show she wants called Peep and the Big Wide World is not there. I will have to search.

Me: Xbox, search kids.

Xbox brings me to a black screen with the letters of the alphabet at the top. Normally, I would use the remote to spell out Peep and a thumbnail of the show would appear. 

Me: Xbox. Search P.

Xbox does nothing. I must not being doing it right.

Me: Xbox. Select P.

Corrigan and me: Xbox. Select P.

Corrigan: Select P, Xbox!

Xbox does nothing.

Corrigan: Xbox. Spell P.

Reece: Xbox. P! P! Peep!

Me: Xbox. Go back.

Xbox goes back to Reece’s show history. Screw it. I try pick a show from there. Luckily, Reece sees a thumbnail of a bee and gets excited about a show called The Hive.

Me: Xbox. Next page.

Xbox moves to the next screen.

Me: Xbox. Select 1

Corrigan: Select 1.

Me: Xbox. Play.

The Hive starts its opening sequence. And all are content until it’s time find the next show.


Inspired by the letter X in the A to Z Challenge for the month of April. Scroll past the social media buttons to share a story of technology or to comment on this post.



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