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New Xbox One update removes Kinect gesture support for dashboard navigation

Microsoft's Mike Ybarra: "The reality was the usage was very, very low."

The upcoming New Xbox One Experience update completely removes support for gesture-based dashboard navigation through Kinect. Microsoft's Mike Ybarra says in a new interview that the company decided to cut the feature because people barely used it at all.

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Microsoft

"On gestures, when we looked at the New Xbox One Experience, we wanted to prioritize features that customers were asking for, plus areas of improvement from the existing Xbox One UI," Ybarra told WindowsCentral. "Then, we wanted to look at the use-case model of features that take a lot of investment and say, 'Is it worth continuing to invest in that area?'"

Gesture support through Kinect could return through a future update if enough fans call for it, but Ybarra made no promises.

"With gestures, the reality was the usage was very, very low," he said. "So for now, we've cut that from the New Xbox One Experience. So when we launch, they won't be in the product. We'll continue to monitor and listen to feedback to see if people want them in."

A Microsoft representative commented further to GameSpot in the following official statement:"Gesture controls for navigating the dashboard were removed to focus on fan-requested features resulting in a faster and more social Xbox One experience. Kinect motion detection continues to be available for Kinect-enabled games, biometric sing-in, and video calls with Skype for Xbox One."

Gesture controls on Xbox One via Kinect have been present since the console's launch in November 2013. They allow users to perform a variety of functions, such as making selections, opening the system menu, and scrolling through screens, by way of using your hands. For example, you could make a selection by raising your hand with an open palm facing the Kinect and the move your hand over the item or tile you wanted to choose. Then you would push forward in the air and pull back to complete the selection.

You can see all of the soon-to-expire Kinect gesture commands on Microsoft's website.

Although gestures are being phased out, the Xbox One will continue to support voice commands via Kinect. In addition, the removal of gesture commands pertains only to Xbox One dashboard navigation; games that support Kinect gesture controls are not affected by this change.

According to another Microsoft higher-up, Mike Nichols, the "vast majority" of people who own a Kinect camera still use it, though for nongaming purposes more than anything. Microsoft's commitment to Kinect continues with the introduction of Cortana voice search through a future Xbox One update coming in 2016, though whether or not Microsoft decides to make any more Kinect games remains to be seen.

When the Xbox One launched in November 2013, Kinect was included in every bundle. In fact, Microsoft said Kinect and Xbox One were one and the same. However, Microsoft later offered a less expensive Xbox One bundle without Kinect, selling the camera separately for $150, a price that has now fallen to $100.

The New Xbox One Experience, which also introduces major UI changes and backward compatibility support, arrives on November 12. It has been available to Preview Program testers for months.