What I learned about the Xbox One from E3

The show gave Microsoft a chance to pull back the curtain on some of its new system's capabilities.

The Xbox booth at E3 was the place to be. Roger Cheng/CNET

LOS ANGELES -- So, the Xbox One is really good at tracking asteroids -- and not of the video game variety.

The E3 video game conference afforded Microsoft a chance to offer a more detailed look at its next-generation console, with the company pulling back the curtain on some of the more interesting capabilities of the new system.

The early indication suggests the Xbox One will see a massive leap in power, actually see games that smartly use the Kinect's motion sensor, and work even better as an entertainment hub for the home.

To show off its computational powers, one Microsoft engineer whipped up a basic program to track the movement of asteroids. The Xbox One alone could track 40,000 at one time, or about 10 times the computation power of any last-generation console, according to the engineer.

But the Xbox One's online connection lets the system tap into the cloud and a much larger set of servers, allowing for "infinite scalability." So you're not relying just on your system's processing power, but the power of a separate server farm run by Microsoft.

Developers are looking to exploit this feature, which could mean whole seamless worlds that can be rendered on the Xbox One, thanks in part to the outside server resources.

"Worlds can become infinitely large," according to the engineer. "You'll see virtual opponents in tens or hundreds of thousands mapped in real time."

Because of the reliance on outside resources, a game can continue to run even if the system is off, allowing friends to interact (or attack) your world when you're off at work or school.

"Because the cloud persists, the worlds will be able to persist."

A Microsoft representative said the Xbox One would require only an average broadband connection to tap into the extra computing power.

The Xbox logo outside of the Microsoft E3 booth. Roger Cheng/CNET

Microsoft also created a rudimentary looking first-person shooter to demonstrate the enhancements that come from using the new Kinect. The new motion-sensor is sensitive enough to pick up natural human movements, and one engineer showed off bringing up a shield just by recoiling slightly and moving his arms back. Another feature allowed him to turn on X-ray vision by tapping his temple. Lastly, he was able to "paint" targets by waving his fingers and calling for a missile strike.

"We were impressed by how sensitive the sensors are," the engineer said. "It can understand natural human movement, things gamers naturally do."

The engineer said Microsoft was getting developers to create enemies or obstacles that can't be overcome by using the controller, but only by using Kinect.

Though Microsoft was largely quiet about games during E3, the company did talk a little about the entertainment aspects of the Xbox One.

Microsoft also made the best use of its partnership with the NFL, which is a partner for Xbox One. Football fans will be glad to hear about NFL Redzone coming to Xbox One. The engineer showed off the ability to "snap" content on the side of the screen. So while you're watching "Game of Thrones," you can pull up a side bar with NFL statistics.

There's a separate fantasy-sports component that allows the Xbox One to deliver alerts if a player on your fantasy team scores a touchdown. A Microsoft representative showed off the full fantasy event feed.

"We're taking the power of Xbox One and live TV and making it more powerful," the representative said.

 

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