Tag Archives: update

PlayStation Home redesign hits PS3 consoles today

This week Sony announced an overhaul for PlayStation Home, an avatar-based gathering place for the PS3 gaming community. The new Home experience revolves around the following new “genre-based districts”: Action District (a gathering place for hardcore gamers), Sportswalk (for sports fanatics), Adventure District (for Uncharted 3 fans), Pier Park (for arcade gameplay), PlayStation Home Theater (features videos tailored specifically for PlayStation gamers), and PlayStation Home Mall (sells avatar items and other downloadable content). Along with a new futuristic Hub and an integrated Activity Board, the upgraded Home will offer up a slew of free-to-play game titles “based
upon a freemium business model” including a FPS called Bootleggers ’29, a racer RC Rally, and a puzzler Cogs. For a quick preview, jump after the break to watch a video tour of the revamped virtual hangout; the full PR is pasted directly below it. After that, fire up your PS3 and roam free!

[Via PlayStationBlog] READ MORE PlayStation Home redesign hits PS3 consoles today

Gmail takes a bold step forward with new look [Update: official iOS app released]

Today Google flipped the switch and transformed Gmail with a new look. It was previewed back in July and now it’s ready for primetime. The navigation panel on the left is more customizable;  you can resize the labels and chat areas depending on which section you access most often. Search has been upgraded, too. The search box up top now features a drop box with helpful options that should make finding exactly what you’re looking for easier and faster. You can also create filters from search queries. Emails have been aesthetically transformed to look like streamlined conversations. Profiles pictures for your contacts show up inside emails and unneccesary text has been stripped out of view making reading a conversation a better experience. In addition, Google has figured out a way to make the Gmail window fit your screen perfectly; the spacing between elements on the screen will automatically change based on the kind of display you’re using. In the settings menu, you can play around with display density and manually select “comfortable,” “cozy,” and “compact” views. Last, the Gmail team has added high resolution themes to the mix. They say most of the popular themes have been upgraded to HD, so the switch on your end should happen automatically. The new look has rolled out to everyone today; to enable it simply click the “Switch to the new look” link located at the bottom right in Gmail. There’s a brief video highlighting these changes after the break.

Update (11/3): Today Google finally released an official Gmail app for iOS devices. Google says they’ve “combined your favorite features from the Gmail mobile web app and iOS into one app so you can be more productive on the go.” The Gmail app promises to bring speed, efficiency, and optimized touch input to the table. The iPad version takes advantage of the larger display, naturally. Moments after Google released the Gmail app into the wild, unfortunately, they pulled it from the App Store due to “a bug which broke notifications.” As soon as the app returns to the Store you will be notified.

Update 2 (11/16): And it’s back! Get your download on right here.

[Via GoogleBlog; GmailBlog] READ MORE Gmail takes a bold step forward with new look [Update: official iOS app released]

Google+ gets trending topics, among other additions

Updating Google TV just wasn’t enough for the G-Men. Around the same time Google announced the forthcoming GTV updates, they flipped a switch and introduced four additions to their social network project known as Google+. First, they’ve stolen a page out of Twitter’s playbook and Paris Hilton’s vocabulary to come up with a “What’s Hot” trending topics section. Users can now search and view the most popular items being shared on the network. Next, Google is giving users the opportunity to watch shared content spread across the social network with Google+ Ripples. Described as a “visualization tool for public shares and comments,”  Ripple will allow users to zoom in on shared events and identify top contributors. If this “experimental” feature sounds interesting to you, give it a spin! The Google+ Creative Kit has been added to the Photos section of the site. The kit provides users with more ways to edit and personalize uploaded photos. Last, the company has announced that Google+ is now available to all Google Apps customers worldwide. Read more about it at Google’s Enterprise blog. All of the new updates described here have already rolled out to users, so if you’ve got an account check ’em out. Video after the break.

Update (11/3): Today Google baked YouTube functionality inside Google+. Login to your Google+ account and you’ll find a new YouTube icon hanging out in at the top right of the screen. When you wave your cursor over it, it’ll expand and ask you “What would you like to play?” Enter a query and Google will automatically play a related video and generate a playlist of related videos in a separate window. You can easily share YouTube videos with your friends on the network, and they in turn can open a related playlist directly from your post. Also, YouTube playlists will now reveal themselves in Google+ search results.

Update (11/7): And the Google+ updates keep on coming. Today Google rolled out Google+ Pages worldwide. In simplest terms, Pages are profiles for businesses and brands. They look and function almost exactly like individual profiles. A shiny badge is plastered on Pages to distinguish them from regular users. Beyond that, sharing information, circle relationships, Hangouts–it’s all the same. Pages will now show up in Google+ search results. Additionally, Pages will show up in standard Google search results when you add the “+” before your query. For example, when you type “+Pepsi” in Google and hit enter, you will instantly be taken to Pepsi’s Google+ Page. Google’s calling this Direct Connect. Watch it in action after the break, then give it a go on your own.

[Via GoogleBlog 1, 2, 3] READ MORE Google+ gets trending topics, among other additions

Google TV gets an update

Google admits that their initial attempt at meshing television and the Internet “wasn’t perfect.” On Friday the company laid out their plans for Google TV 2.0 and their hope is that with the new software additions and refinements, customers will be more enticed to purchase a GTV box or compatible TV set if they haven’t already done so. At the official Google TV blog, the development team divided the changes into four categories. First, the user interface has undergone a cosmetic facelift and is now “much simpler” to navigate. The new customizable home screen displays favorite apps across the bottom of the screen and an “all apps” folder allows users to quickly browse every pre-installed and added app. Next up is refined search. There’s a new app called “TV & Movies” that allows users to “easily browse through 80,000 movies and TV episodes across cable or satellite, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and many other sites.” Before, the search box allowed users to type a query to make it easier to find a specific TV show. While that search box remains present, the TV & Movies app–which aggregates content from all kinds of services including live TV and Internet-based locations–makes exploring and discovering content in one place a reality. Third is an enhanced YouTube experience. YouTube videos are now available to watch in HD and the video service is more closely integrated with Google TV search. For example, when users search “hysterical baby” they will be able to save the search results as a “channel” to access any time. And last but certainly not least is the addition of Android Market. Google says that “Android developers can now bring existing mobile apps or entirely new ones to TV.” Obviously apps requiring a touch screen, GPS, or telephony will not be made available for download on Google TV devices, but Google claims that “50 developers have seeded the Market with cool and useful apps” made specifically for use on a TV. As in all app markets, the selection will grow over time. Another update to GTV includes the ability to view online pictures in a new Photos app.

According to Google the update to Google TV will rollout to compatible devices made by Sony first starting this week and then it’ll make its way to Logitech’s Revue sometime after. Google promises that more software updates are on the way, “as well as new devices on new chipsets from multiple hardware partners.” With Google’s TV efforts evolving and speculation that Apple is about to enter the fray, the Internet on the TV initiative is just heating up. See what the new Google TV interface looks like in the gallery below. Video after the break.

[Via Google TV Blog] READ MORE Google TV gets an update

Apple announces iPhone 4S, refreshed iPods, & provides release date for iOS 5 & iCloud

On Tuesday newly appointed Apple CEO Tim Cook hosted a press event to launch the next iPhone and detail the new version of iOS and the upcoming iCloud service. Breakdown, commence.

iPhone 4S

The successor to the iPhone 4 is not the iPhone 5; it’s the iPhone 4S. It serves as an incremental upgrade to its predecessor much like the iPhone 3GS was to the iPhone 3G. The exterior design of the handset remains the same; the changes can be found on the inside. The 4S packs the same processor originally designed for the iPad 2: Apple’s dual-core A5 chip. The company says that users can expect speeds up to 2X faster than the previous iPhone. In addition, the 4S also contains a new dual-core GPU that renders graphics up to 7X faster than the iPhone 4. At the keynote games developer Epic previewed Infinity Blade 2 (out December 1) and it looks magnificent.

After speed, Apple went on to upgrade the device’s camera. The 4S sports a new 8 megapixel camera. The sensor has 60 percent more pixels allowing users to shoot 3264 x 2448 photos with crisp detail. CMOS backside illuminated allows for 73 percent more light, a hybrid IR filter allows for better color accuracy and uniformity, a five element lens setup allows for 30 percent more sharpness, auto white balance has been improved by 26 percent, and a larger f/2.4 aperture is now featured. Also, the Camera app launches much faster and the shot to shot capability is twice as fast as before; it now takes 1.1 seconds to shoot your first photo and then 0.5 seconds for each additional shot. According to Apple’s research, these speeds blaze past the Android competition. And there’s this: the backside camera shoots video in full 1080p HD resolution and features real-time video image stabilization and temporal noise reduction helps in low light conditions.

The phone’s antenna system has also been tweaked. The dual-antenna design of iPhone 4 remains, but now it can intelligently switch between both antennas to transmit and receive data more efficiently. This results in the device’s ability to download data up to twice as fast as before (HSDPA performance: 14.4 Mbps down, 5.8 Mbps up) and you can expect better call quality. The 4S is a world phone, meaning GSM and CDMA technologies are built in and users can roam internationally on both networks.

And then there was the “one more thing…” Apple announced Siri, the device’s “intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking.” With the iPhone 4, holding down the home button will prompt the phone to initiate the rather crude voice-activated menu where you can say things like “Call Home” or “Play Kanye West.” Siri takes this to an entirely new level of awesome. Apple designed Siri to “understand context allowing you to speak naturally when you ask it questions.” Here are some examples to help illustrate. You can ask Siri “What is the weather like today?” and it will display the current temperature with visual aid. Then you can ask for an “hourly forcast” and it will provide that information, too. You can also say things like “Wake me up at 6AM”, “Find me a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto”, “Give me directions to Hoover Tower”, and “Schedule lunch at Friday on noon with John Smith” and Siri will answer you intelligently. It will access the clock app to set an alarm; it will search the ‘Net for Greek restaurants and sort them by Yelp customer ratings; it will launch Maps and provide directions; and it will look into your calendar and create events for you (if there’s an event that clashes with the new one you’re attempting to make, Siri will inform you about this and ask if you want to reschedule one of them). And the hands-free interaction doesn’t end there. Siri has access to many of the apps preloaded on the 4S. You can make Siri read aloud your text messages and emails and it’s also integrated with Reminders, Safari (“Search Wikipedia for Neil Armstrong”) and Wolfram Alpha’s database (“Define mytosis”). An information pane inside the Siri interface will provide users with a list of prompts they can use. And when you ask Siri “Who are you?” it’ll answer “I am a humble personal assistant.” Ha, try it! It also does dictation; a new mic icon is now part of the virtual keyboard. Siri is an iPhone 4S exclusive, and it works over WiFi and 3G. At launch it’ll remain in beta and support English, French, and German; Apple promises over time additional languages and services will be added.

The iPhone 4S, which will ship with iOS 5 and iCloud services, releases October 14 and is now available for preorder. It’ll sell in black and white flavors at the following price points: 16GB: $199, 32GB: $299, 64GB: $399, all with new two-year contracts of course. Additionally, Sprint joins AT&T and Verizon Wireless to become a carrier of the iPhone. (Note that the iPhone 4 will continue to sell at a new low price point of $99 (8GB) and the iPhone 3GS (8GB) can be picked up at no cost. When the 4S ships on the 14th it’ll release in the US, Canada, Austrailia, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan; on the 28th it’ll make it’s way to 22 more countries and by December 2011 it’ll sell in over 70 countries and with over 100 carriers. Apple claims this’ll be the fastest rollout ever for an iPhone.

iOS 5, iCloud, and iPods after the break. READ MORE Apple announces iPhone 4S, refreshed iPods, & provides release date for iOS 5 & iCloud

Facebook redesigns profile pages with Timeline, partners with app developers to make things more social

Hot off the heels of updating the News Feed and adding the Ticker, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced more changes coming to the social network at today’s F8 developer conference.


Your profile page is about to undergo an extreme makeover. The page is becoming wider to offer up more content at a glance and it will house three distinct sections: Cover, Stories, and Apps. Your Cover is dominated by an enlarged image, something that is separate from your profile picture and better expresses who you are. Your Cover can be personalized at any time and with any image you uploaded to Facebook. This section of the profile also shows off your About info (where you live, where you went to school, your job, your relationship status, etc.) and it also gives your friends a quick glance at your total number of friends, photos, likes, etc. Directly below that section is your Stories; this is an enhanced version of your Wall and it’s defined by an integrated Timeline. The Timeline makes it easier to highlight and go back to older posts. Up until the introduction of this new interface, the only way to see go back and see post from the past is to scroll all the way down to the bottom of your profile page and click “Older posts.” Users are forced to keep clicking that link to dig into the past. With Timeline, the past is easier to rediscover with the ability to highlight past memories that you don’t want people to forget happened so fast. All the content you ever posted on Facebook can be scrubbed through by date (month, year). And the Timeline is totally customizable; you can go back to a particular date and add events and pictures that you might have forgotten to post at the time they occurred. You can mark (or “star”) your favorite stories and these will expand to widescreen so your friends can see them more clearly. You can also remove the stories you want to hide. In addition to your Stories, the Timeline section of your profile page will also highlight apps.

Social apps

Facebook has offered apps in the past, but never like this. Zuckerberg and company have teamed with more than a handful of third-party developers to make apps more social on Facebook. Here’s an example: You’re an avid user of the new music streaming service Spotify and you’ve connected your Facebook account to your Spotify account. Since you’ve been using Spotify when it launched earlier this summer in the US, you’ve been listening to tunes and sharing what kind of music you listen to with your friends over Facebook. Today Facebook is bringing the listening and sharing experience to a whole new level. When you tell Spotify to share your listening habits to your Facebook friends, not only will they see what you are listening to but they’ll also be able to play the song directly within Facebook (granted your friends also signed up for Spotify). This will make music discovery simpler and definitely more social. And the world of social apps only begins with music. Facebook also partnered with major developers like Netflix, CNN, Kobo, and Foodily to make sharing what movies you’re watching, news and books you’re reading, and recipes you’re cooking a whole lot more engaging. The social apps you use regularly will show up in your friends’ News Feeds and Tickers and of course inside your profile page on your Timeline alongside the rest of your Stories.

In sum, Facebook wants your profile page to evolve into “the story of your life.” It will become the place where you and your friends can see what you’re all about and discover your life accomplishments as they happen. And with social apps, you and your friends will have greater access to sharing and engaging in conversation around similar interests you may never have known existed. Users tend to lambast Facebook for messing around with the interface on a regular basis, but it’s tough (at least for me) to deny the sheer amount of potential social apps have for the future of online interaction and discovery. And with Timeline, you won’t have to worry about your most exciting and interesting posts getting lost in the past. Of course, it’s tough to say how effective all of this is going to be without having played around with it. Facebook says social apps are rolling out today and the new profile design is going out to developers now and will slowly trickle out to all users soon. For now click here to view a sample “New Profile” and start getting used to the future of social networking.

[Via Facebook] READ MORE Facebook redesigns profile pages with Timeline, partners with app developers to make things more social

Windows Phone Mango coming to AT&T handsets this fall

In May Microsoft previewed the first major upgrade to its rejuvenated mobile OS. Mango will bring multitasking, IE9, and deeper social network integration, among other things, to Windows Phone 7 devices. This fall, AT&T intends to upgrade their entire WP7 portfolio to Mango. Nice! But there’s more. In a press release (in full after the break), Ma Bell also announced three brand new handsets that will ship with Mango on board in Q4. The new and improved Samsung Focus S features a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, 1.4GHz processor, a rear facing 8 megapixel camera and a front facing 1.3 megapixel, “4G”-capable speeds, and a thin profile at 8.55 millimeters. The Focus Flash downgrades things a bit and packs a smaller 3.7-inch Super AMOLED screen, a 5 megapixel camera with front facing camera, but it keeps the speedy 1.4 GHz processor. And finally the large-and-in-charge HTC Titan features a 4.7-inch display, 1.5 GHz processor, and 8 megapixel camera with dual LED flash. Pricing and exact available will have to wait.

Update: Microsoft shows off a bunch of Mango’s new features in dramatic video fashion after the break.

[Via AT&T; Engadget] READ MORE Windows Phone Mango coming to AT&T handsets this fall

ESPN on Xbox LIVE gets a makeover

The ESPN app on Xbox Live is getting its first major update since it launched last summer. The dashboard can be customized to feature your favorite sports teams so fans can see a daily feed of news and highlights from those specific teams; the addition of the ESPN BottomLine keeps fans in the know with breaking news and score updates; a Mini Guide can be called up from the bottom of the screen to give fans a preview and quick access to personalized sports content; and Reminders and Live Alerts can be set. Two new features that stand out are Split Screen and Voice Control with Kinect. Fans can watch two events at once (i.e. watch ESPN3.com live events on both screens or a live event on one while catching up on ESPN.com news and highlights on the other) and they can navigate through the Content Guide, skip to the next highlight, or play, pause, and rewind plays through voice control.

Remember that access to ESPN3.com live events is only available to customers of an affiliated service provider; if you’ve got that and you’re an Xbox LIVE Gold Member you’re set! Screenshots below, demo videos and full PR after the break.

[Via Engadget; ESPN]

READ MORE ESPN on Xbox LIVE gets a makeover

Apple refreshes MacBook Air, Mac mini & 27-inch display

A couple months after updating the MacBook Pros, Apple has gone ahead and reinvigorated their MacBook Air and Mac mini products. The thin-and-light ultraportable notebook now boasts faster Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, the high-speed Thunderbolt I/O port, and a backlit keyboard. The 11-inch model is available in two customizable SKUs. The base $999 model packs a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 2GB of memory, 64GB of flash storage, and Intel HD Graphics 3000. The $1,199 model upgrades the memory to 4GB and the flash storage to 128GB. Moving along to the 13-inch model, two additional SKUs are offered. The $1,299 model features a 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB memory,128GB flash storage, and Intel HD Graphics 3000. The $1,599 model upgrades the flash storage to 256GB. Certain models can be customized to feature Intel Core i7 processors (up to 1.8GHz) and upgraded flash memory (up to 256GB). The new incredibly thin MacBook Air measures 0.11-inches at its thinnest point and 0.68-inches at its thickest. Apple claims it is is up to twice as fast as the previous generation thanks to the upgraded Intel processors. The 11-inch model (at 2.38 pounds) provides up to 5 hours of battery life, while the 13-inch model  (2.96 pounds) offers up to 7 hours of battery life. It comes with a full size backlit keyboard and an improved glass Multi-Touch trackpad. Ports include MagSafe for power, 2 USB 2.0, headphone jack, Thunderbolt, and an SD Card slot (on the 11-inch model only). WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 are included; the USB Ethernet Adapter ($29) can be purchased separately. Note that the $999 MacBook Air is the base laptop Apple offers today; the white plastic MacBook has been discontinued.

Like the newly enhanced MacBook Air, the Mac mini is speedier and packs Intel Core i5 and  i7 processors and the Thunderbolt port. Additionally, graphics can be upgraded to AMD Radeon HD. Three SKUs are offered. The base $599 model comes with 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 2GB memory, 500GB hard drive, and Intel HD Graphics 3000. The $799 model upgrades the processor to 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, the memory to 4GB, and the graphics to AMD Radeon HD 6630M. These two SKUs can be customized to feature upgraded memory (up to 8GB) and hard drive space (up to 750GB); the pricier SKU can be configured with a 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i7. The third and final SKU is the Mac mini with Lion Server and its specs include: 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 4GB memory, Dual 500GB 7200-rpm hard drives, and Intel HD Graphics 3000 for $999; memory and hard drive capacities can be upgraded. Ports include Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire 800, HDMI, Thunderbolt, 4 USB 2.0, SDXC card slot, and audio in/out. WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 included. Notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about the Superdrive; that’s because Apple’s decided not to include a CD/DVD drive in the new Mac mini. A bold move if you ask me. BYO keyboard, mouse, and display.

Speaking of displays, in addition to updating their computers Apple has also given their Cinema Display a minor refresh. The newly branded 27-inch Thunderbolt Display features the 16:9 edge-to-edge glass design, a 2560 x 1440 resolution with IPS technology (that is, an ultra wide 178 degree viewing angle), and it’s the world’s first display to include the Thunderbolt I/O port. The display also includes includes a built-in FaceTime HD video camera for video conferencing, a 2.1 speaker system for high quality audio, an integrated MagSafe charger to keep Mac notebooks charged, three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, and one Gigabit Ethernet port. The cost is $999.

All three products–the MacBook Air, Mac mini, and Thunderbolt Display–are all available today. The new computers come preinstalled with Apple’s latest and greatest operating system Mac OS X Lion. Get a closer look at everything in the galleries below. Official PR sits after the break.

[Via Apple] READ MORE Apple refreshes MacBook Air, Mac mini & 27-inch display

Google gets a makeover

You can call it Exteme Makeover: Google Edition. Over the past few weeks Google has been rolling out a new look across many of their services, including the Google homepage, Gmail, Google Calendar, and YouTube. “The way people use and experience the web is evolving, and our goal is to give you a more seamless and consistent online experience—one that works no matter which Google product you’re using or what device you’re using it on,” explains Google. In a word they’re simply streamlining all their intertwined experiences, and the changes are ” founded on three key design principles: focus, elasticity and effortlessness.”

At Google‘s homepage you’ll surely notice the new black strip located across the top; the colorful logo is smaller and centered, the Search and Lucky buttons have a new hue, and the About, Privacy, and Advertising links have been moved to the bottom left-hand corner of the page. In Gmail and Calendar everything is bolder and more roomier to match the new homepage aesthetic. Design cues were certainly carried over from Google+. Google’s also experimenting with YouTube’s look; Cosmic Panda is the codename for the video player’s new sheen. YouTube is positively sleek in its new coat of paint.

Google’s homepage and Calendar changes have been rolling out to users automatically. To experience Gmail and YouTube’s new flairs you must enable it manually. In Gmail, select “Preview” and “Preview (Dense)” themes in the Themes tab in Gmail Settings; to play around with Cosmic Panda head over to this YouTube portal and click “Try it out.” Since Google’s still testing it out and awaiting customer feedback, you can revert back to the classic look at any time.

It will take time for every Google service to fall in line aesthetically with the new homepage, but there’s no denying that Google’s first wave of cosmetic changes is simply delightful and, well, downright sexy.

Games Hub gets spruced up in Windows Phone Mango

The next release of Windows Phone is coming this fall. Windows Phone Mango includes deeper social network integration, Internet Explorer 9, and the ability to multitask. Among the 500 new features coming to the mobile OS is also an updated Xbox portal. Here’s a quick rundown of the new Games Hub:

  • A cleaner and lighter design that emphasizes your game collection and Xbox LIVE info
  • Improved overall performance and speed
  • An improved Collection view will organize and list all the games you download from the Marketplace
  • Interactive, 3D avatars
  • Improved Xbox LIVE messaging: read and reply to Xbox LIVE messages sent from another Windows Phone, a PC, or an Xbox console
  • Xbox LIVE friends are more accessible: You can search, browse, initiate, and respond to friend requests right from your Windows Phone.
  • Integrated achievements and new comparison views: See the recent games your friends have been playing, and compare gamerscores and achievements for all Xbox LIVE games played on the phone, console, or PC.
  • You can edit your Xbox LIVE profile on the go
  • Improved Spotlight content will now be complemented with rich and vibrant images
  • Improved game request notifications: You’ll receive notifications for multiplayer game or turn requests and can track them in the Requests section of the Games Hub.

In sum with Mango the Xbox on-the-go experience is going to be a helleva lot more streamlined and easier to use. Look in the gallery below to tour the updated UI.

[Via WindowsPhoneBlog]

E3 2011: Microsoft Press Conference

Today Microsoft kicked off E3 2011 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. So many game trailers, demos, and Xbox Live and Dashboard updates to talk about. Ready, set, bullet points!

  • The press conference got started with a demo of Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It is described as being “the biggest, most exciting and epic Call of Duty ever.” I can confidently back that statement up. MW3 downloadable content will be available first on Xbox 360. Due out November 8, 2011.
  • Crystal Dynamics showed off the Tomb Raider reboot. Lara Croft is getting down and dirty in this game that shares style and gameplay with Uncharted. The developers explained that the game reveals “how an ambitious 21-year-old Lara Croft becomes a hardened survivor.” Due out Fall 2012.
  • EA Sports president (and former Xbox honcho) Peter Moore announced that four sports games will support Kinect this year and they are Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden NFL, FIFA, and Mass Effect 3. ME3 utilizes Kinect with voice control. Kinect’s built-in mic will pick up your commands. RPG decisions and tactical team controls can be carried out by your voice. Due out March 6, 2012.
  • Next up was Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. This title will also feature Kinect support, but this time it’s hand and arm gestures in addition to voice control. You can create various weapons by exploding them into their small parts using Minority Report-style gestures. This demo really wowed the crowed. Voice commands like “optimize for long range” will also piece together a weapon for you. The weapon customization process with Kinect looks very fluid, fast, and super cool. Ubisoft announced that all future titles in the Tom Clancy franchise will support Kinect in some way or other.
  • The Dashboard is getting yet another facelift. Somehow Microsoft has made it cleaner and more streamlined. It was built from the ground up specifically with Kinect voice in mind. For example, saying “Xbox, music” will bring you directly to the Music section. The new UI contains the following sections: Home, Social, Live TV, Video, Games, Music, Apps, and Settings. That’s right–I said live TV. Microsoft is forging new partnerships to bring live television to Xbox LIVE in the US and around the world, adding to their current partnerships with Sky TV in the UK, Canal Plus in France, and FOXTEL in Australia. TV listings and a DVR manager will be accessible from the Dashboard. Also coming to Xbox is YouTube, UFC, and Bing search. UFC president Dana White came out to show off the interactive UFC content. You can call fights and compare results with your friends. “You say it, Xbox finds it” is the new Bing motto when it comes to searching for and discovering content on the console. “Xbox, Bing, X-Men” will prompt the console to bring up all games and videos (including movies and TV shows) related to your query.
  • The following upcoming games are Xbox 360 exclusives: Ice-T joined Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski for a demo of Gears of War 3 (due out September 20, 2011); Crytek’s Ryse will take advantage of Kinect as you violently slash your way past enemies in Rome; To celebrate Halo’s 10 year anniversary a remastered version of the original game will release November 15, 2011 and it’s called Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (co-op over Xbox Live and classic multiplayer maps included); Turn 10 Studio’s Forza Motorsport 4 releases October 11, 2011 with Top Gear content and Kinect support for voice and headtracking; Head of Lionhead Studios Peter Molyneux hopped on stage to reveal the next Fable subtitled The Journey (this game too will come packed with heavy support for Kinect, due out in 2012); Minecraft is coming to support Kinect this winter; other exclusives include Kinect-based kids games Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, and Kinect Star Wars.
  • Microsoft’s bearded man with designer shades Kudo Tsunoda came out to show off the latest updates of his pet project the Kinect. He announced that Kinect Fun Labs is a permanent addition to the Xbox Live Dashboard and it will serve as a portal for the developer community to share their latest Kinect innovations. Three Labs games were shown off. Kinect Me will capture your face and clothing to create an avatar that looks just like you; in Kinect Sparkler you make poses for the camera, it captures them, and then you can use your fingers to draw sparkling lines of light in the image in three dimensions (you can manipulate the image to make it appear as if it contains two layers); Kinect Googly Eyes allows you to scan real-life tangible objects using Kinect and them manipulate their actions on-screen (at the conference a plush toy was scanned without issue). Kinect Fun Labs is accessible today to all Xbox Live members.
  • More Kinect games coming to Xbox include: Kinect Sports Season 2 (baseball, skiing, golf, darts, tennis, football); Dance Central 2 (which now features a campaign mode, voice controls, and a revamped Break it Down mode, and simultaneous multiplayer dancing…plus all songs from the original an be imported into the sequel).
  • And then came the “dawn of a new trilogy for Xbox 360″…it’s Halo 4! A brief teaser trailer was played. Master Chief returns Holiday 2012.

And that was the Microsoft press conference. Though most of the game trailer and demos were stimulating, the overall presentation was lacking in explosive, heart-stopping content. The Dashboard update is nice, the Xbox exclusives are impressive, and the push for Kinect is full speed ahead. It will certainly be interesting to see developers make new and exciting uses of the Kinect peripheral; Microsoft seems to be goading developers into incorporating it into their games somehow. Voice control seems overly gimmicking, but at least new approaches are being made to interactivity. And I gotta say, ending the event with a tease at the birth of a new Halo trilogy was a nice touch.

I attended the press conference this morning, so make sure you check out the pictures I snapped in the gallery below!