The Xbox Live Handbook is a book in progress. What is Xbox Live is part two of the epic walkthrough of Microsoft’s Console. You can check out other parts of the Handbook here. Feel free to make suggestions for changes in the margins — I mean comments.

So many people will tell you that the Xbox One is a gaming console. Don’t worry, they aren’t lying to you intentionally. To be clear – they’re wrong – but not so wrong that you should consider removing them from your holiday card list this year. Today, the Xbox One is a video game and entertainment console.

The key to making the many different parts of the Xbox One work together is the Kinect 2 sensor. Unless you only play video gams and occasionally watch video, you need the Kinect for Xbox One sensor to fully take advantage of the Xbox One. The Kinect for Xbox One sensor is a stich, a bead of glue holding everything Microsoft is attempting together.

Let’s get this out of the way right now; If you’re that person who puts a piece of paper over your PC’s webcam in case someone “hacks in,” Kinect for Xbox One might not be for you. The device is one big giant webcam, complete with an array of microphones and infrared sensors. It uses software and a high-definition lens to see you in your living room or were else you place. To be clear, I don’t think you have anything to fear from the Kinect for Xbox One sitting in your living room, but I understand it’s a personal decision.

So why all the sensors? Accessibility is the biggest reason you want a Kinect for Xbox One. Like the Kinect for Xbox 360 before it, the new Kinect uses it’s sensors and camera to see you in a room. It identifies you and logs you in automatically. It sees your hands and allows you to open apps and play light games without picking up a controller. Games like Kinect Sports Rivals fully depend on the Kinect to make playing some titles more approachable for novices. Other titles, like Dragon Age Inquisition and Madden NFL 25 use the sensor to let players with a controller deep dive into menus and change plays on the fly.

Accessibility is important for more than games. Again, the Xbox One is for lovers of all kinds of entertainment. Voice input is how Microsoft manages to lock in even the casual entertainment lover. The Xbox One’s HDMI pass-through port lets users plug in their cable box and watch live television. The Kinect makes managing all of this easier by layering in a set of voice commands. These are for members of the family who aren’t tech savvy and would prefer to never go anywhere near a controller.

Kinect for Xbox One: Using It

Using Kinect for Xbox One

For now, I’m assuming that you’ve followed the instruction that came with your console and setup your Kinect for Xbox One sensor already.

A lot of the things the Kinect for Xbox One does requires you, the user, to say or do something. A few just happen automatically and are worth highlighting. When you walk into a room, your Xbox One will recognize you and fill the screen with your apps and games. The Kinect is always watching to see if you’re not using a controller so that it can turn it off to preserve battery life too.

Configuring you’re controller with your Xbox Live was never fun and with the Kinect for Xbox One, you don’t have to worry about it. The Kinect will automatically pair a controller with anyone it recognizes. It also knows when the person who started playing with a particular controller as switched off. It’ll ask, then kick you out.

Voice Commands

Many games – even what games like to call “hard-core” titles that rely on a controller – use Kinect Voice commands. Depending on the game, you might need to do a little research. Take a look at the packaging, for example.

Kinect Voice commands are great because they level the playing field. Forget the controller, with the right voice command you can do just about anything on the Xbox One. Voice commands are basically a requirement of Microsoft, meaning their nearly ubiquitous. YouTube for Xbox One supports voice commands, Skype supports voice commands too.

Say Xbox to see the commands that are available to you. You’ll hear a chime and see a lot of green text. Anything in green is a command.

Saying, Xbox, Go Home gets you back to your console’s Home Screen, the centralized place for any apps or games you install or download.

Xbox, On is completely dependent on your power settings and lets you wake the console from sleep when you first enter a room. This command won’t work if you have Connected Standby turned off. Just a note, turning off Connected Standby also means your console won’t download software upgrades and purchases silently.

One universal voice command that’s always been very useful is Xbox, Turn Off. Say it and your console asks if you’re sure before powering down.

Xbox, Go Back gets you to the last screen you were on. In some cases this can mean switching between apps.

Maybe you’ve heard of Bing, Microsoft’s search engine. The Xbox One uses voice commands and Bing technology to search everything and anything available on Xbox Live, the console’s online entertainment services. Xbox, Bing is the command for accessing search and you can also use that command anywhere.

The Xbox One allows you to multitask in most situations. This is called Snap and with a controller it’s cumbersome. With voice it is downright easy. Say, Xbox, Snap… and the name of the app to stick a app to the side of your screen. If you say just Xbox, Snap a convenient menu will tell you what apps are have multitasking capabilities. If you should run into an app that doesn’t, the Xbox One will tell you.

Everyone loves QR codes these days. The little rectangular squares are included in prepaid content from the Xbox One. Say, Xbox, Use a Code and hold the QR code directly in front of you.

Now it’s time to talk about entertainment specific commands. That built-in infrared port allows the Xbox One to communicate directly with television sets, cable boxes and audio equipment. You’ll need to have configured your television and audio equipment during the setup process to get these commands to work.

Xbox, Volume Up and Xbox, Volume Down do exactly what they sound like, adjust you’re your television’s volume. Xbox, Mute allows you to kill all of the sound coming from your television period.

The key to Microsoft’s Live TV features is the Xbox One Guide. It’s a centralized place that shows the latest content from the apps you have installed and what’s available on broadcast or cable. To open it you say Xbox, OneGuide. There’s a miniature version called the MiniGuide. Say Xbox, MiniGuide for that.

The OneGuide lets you browse everything that’s airing, but what if you want to go directly to your favorite channel? Xbox, Watch and the name of the channel takes care of that. This one’s great because it’s accessible from anywhere. For example, you’d use Xbox, Watch ABC Family to catch a rerun of Boy Meets World after school.

There are some non-specific voice commands out there too. These commands don’t always work. Instead, they show up in the context of each app. One example of a non-specific voice command is Xbox, Next List, a command specifically for Netflix.


Wherever you are in the interface – game, app, live TV, anything – you can always go to the Home screen to opening something else. Hold both of your hands up in front, grab the edges of your screen and pull inward to go back to the Home screen.

To bring up a cursor that allows you to select different kinds of content hold up your right or left hand by itself. You’ll see a cursor in the shape of a hand appear on your television screen.

When you’re selecting things, Microsoft wants you to feel as if you’re pushing a button. That’s why instead of hovering your hand over something Microsoft chose to let users push on apps and menu options to select them. To be clear, you need to have held your hand up and have the on-screen cursor resting on the setting or app you’re trying to open.

Gestures are mostly universal from an apps perspective. The overwhelming majority of the apps you download from the Xbox Store support hand gestures. Games are a different subject though, some games don’t have any gesture functionality at all. Some games, depend on them. You need to know which you’re dealing with. Look in the game description and packaging.

There are app specific gestures that don’t surface in a lot of places too. To zoom in or zoom out on a webpage in Internet Explorer you need to hold out both of your hands, clinch a fist and move your arms inward or outward.

The important thing to remember with the Kinect for Xbox One is to not feel overwhelmed. There are going to be situations when picking up a controller is a better idea than using a hand gesture. Go with the input style you prefer, even if that isn’t a voice command or gesture.