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The tech behind Kinect and how it will control your living room

Microsoft's Marc Whitten explains how Kinect and the Xbox One ecosystem will take command of your living room.

Josh Miller/CNET

LOS ANGELES -- At first I thought I had misunderstood him, so I made sure to reply slowly. "So you're saying Kinect is going to blast IR signals at your living room, and they're going to reflect off walls and stuff and bounce back to control all of your devices?"

"That's correct," Marc Whitten said.

"Whoa," I replied.

"Kinect has a really powerful management of that energy," he explained. "It's just light," he went on, "but it just exists in a different spectrum." I looked more closely at the Kinect sensor and sure enough, I could make out the red-lensed blasters hiding behind the front tinted panel. "It's got at least three separate and very powerful IR blasters."

Unfortunately I didn't get to see it actually work, but that's the plan for controlling your TV, cable box and other devices when Xbox One launches later this year. The room I met Whitten in was set up like an average living room environment with a centered HDTV and an ordinary device cabinet beneath. It's with this setup the IR-blasting Kinect should perform normally. "Kinect tends to be where the TV is," he said.

But what about people who keep their devices in cabinets? Or racks? Or in a different room? For those cases, Xbox One will offer a solution that would run a cabled IR blaster to the devices that need commands sent.

The console's quest to be the center of your living room is focused around creating an all-in-one living room entertainment experience. "Kinect can not only be amazing for games, but can make your living room work better," he said.

Whitten thinks this functionality, exclusive games, cloud computing, and more will provide a better value than will the competition come this holiday season. We'll see just how well Xbox One integrates into your living room when it's released this November for $500.