Microsoft on Monday began adding voice search to Xbox Live as it continues to transform its videogame consoles into hubs for online entertainment in digital age living rooms.
The software update for the Xbox 360 lets users ask Internet search engine Bing to find what they are looking for by taking advantage of voice capability in the Kinect accessory for Microsoft's popular game console.
Xbox Live is an online network connecting the videogame console to games, music, films, television shows and other digital content.
"A new era in entertainment begins where all your entertainment is together in one place -- your games, movies, TV shows, music and sports," said Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business president Don Mattrick.
"With this update, Xbox 360 system owners will experience Kinect voice control integrated with Bing search, making your TV and entertainment experiences more social and personal than ever," he said.
Hulu, Netflix and other entertainment services already on Xbox Live are adapting software applications to allow people to speak commands to be heard by Kinect for the Xbox 360, according to Microsoft.
Kinect devices also recognize gestures, promising ways for online services to be commanded by body movements.
"Every fancy interactive TV promise you've ever heard now has an easy platform through which it can be delivered -- with no hardware upgrade required on anyone's part," Forrester analyst James McQuivey said in a blog post.
"Microsoft has just built and delivered it: a single box that ties together all the content you want, made easily accessible through a universal, natural, voice-directed search," the analyst said.
Xbox Live has become a benchmark against which rivals such as Apple TV and Google TV will be measured, according to McQuivey.
Apple, Google, and Sony are among the companies vying with Microsoft to be at the heart of digital entertainment in people's living rooms.
YouTube last week unveiled a major redesign that showcases television-style channels and promises slicker integration with other Google online properties and Google TV.
"We are trying hard to marry the best of TV and the best of online," YouTube vice president of product development Shishir Mehrotra said while providing an early glimpse of the changes at the company's offices in San Bruno.
To demonstrate the point, group product manager Shiva Rajaraman demonstrated a YouTube application that makes the website's videos viewable at Xbox Live.
Sony in recent months revamped search at its Sony Entertainment Network for PlayStation 3 videogame consoles as it worked to create synergy with the Japanese company's gadgets, televisions, music, films and videogames.
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