Not entirely sure how this happened but I was recently invited to be an Xbox 360 ambassador. What does this mean? Well I have been asked to write a couple of blog posts and post some tweets about Xbox.
The reason for becoming an ambassador is to promote the new Xbox 360 dashboard functionality that turns your Xbox from a pure games console, into a full blown media hub.
When you first load the new dashboard the first thing you notice is the new look. The whole thing has quite a slick feeling to it, not dissimilar to the screenshots of the currently in development Windows 8 that have been floating around.
Now you can control the dashboard the old fashioned way, with your hands on a controller, but that's no fun. So instead you can now use your voice, or your body (specifically your hands) through the power of Kinect. I found the voice control to be a bit hit and miss. It worked ok but I had to speak quite loudly and slowly - perhaps my London accent confused it. The motion controls on the other hand were both more enjoyable, and cooler. Being able to flick backwards and forwards from screen to screen does feel more than a bit like being in the Matrix or Minority Report. Holding still to select things isn't ideal since you lose some of the responsiveness - but it's still a cool thing to experience and shows the potential for this sort of technology in a couple of generations.
Download Apps & Movies
The really interesting part of the new Dashboard is that it adds an 'Apps' section. These apps get downloaded from the internet and bring extra multimedia functionality to the fun. So far I haven't used many of the apps, but the ones I've downloaded include LOVEFiLM (not a typo), Zune Video Marketplace, and the SkyTV app.
LOVEFiLM brings you a whole stack of movies that stream direct to your console on demand. No need to put on your shoes and coat! The down side is that it's a subscription service however they do have a free 30 day trial so you can give it a whirl for nothing. Likewise Zune Video MArketplace have a reasonable selection of films and TV Shows that you can purchase with Xbox Live Points, and the SkyTV App is free for existing Sky subscribers.
Xbox with Kinect
I am also really feeling Kinect. Like Wii Sports, Kinect Adventures is a great big tech demo. It's not something I would pay full price for but as an extra bundled with the console it has a lot to enjoy. All of the games are controlled with body movements and it can be rather physical and frantic when you get into it. It took a while for me to loosen up and get used to moving around, but once you're in the zone its a lot of fun.
My fave game is the river rafting one. I've been white water rafting for real, and whilst this doesn't give quite the same adrenaline rush - it's an enjoyable way to waste some time, and I can certainly see the potential for other games in the future to be even more interactive. Now I am going to wait for the Xbox 360's Zelda equivalent - combining full motion controls with a puzzle based adventure game would be awesome.
If you have a 360 and want to try out some of these things then I have a coupon for 50% off the cost of your first 3 months using Xbox Live Gold. Simply use the code B1nr7M0on whilst registering and you will get the monies knocked off the total.
So - what do you think? Have you updated your Xbox yet? Is there anything else you would like to see?