Will Xbox 720/Durango usher in the living room voice control era?

Buckle up folks, the next-gen Xbox rumors are coming out fast and furious.

Earlier this week, Gamestop saw it’s life flash before it’s eyes as word the next-gen console from Microsoft won’t allow for used games. This would, in my mind, be a potential death-punch for brick and mortar video game retail.

And yesterday, word was that the new Xbox – code-named Durango – could have a Siri-like natural language recognition capability.

Interfaces have become important distinguishing factors for gaming consoles in recent years, first with Nintendo and it’s Wiimote ¬†and later with Microsoft and Kinect. More recently, Nintendo went touchscreen with its Wii U controller (While I like the idea of a touchscreen as part of a gaming controller, although I’m not sure Nintendo was wise to make their own rather than leverage existing devices such as smartphones).

And now we could see voice as a gaming console interface. Ok, sure, Microsoft already uses some limited voice control with the Kinect, but they’ve made little use of it thus far.

So will Durango usher in a new era for living room voice control? Possibly, though I am a believer that consumer behavior with TV interfaces is more fixed that than of phone or computer, in large part because the basic remote control is so efficient, and remote control and controller behavior is built upon years of muscle memory for many consumers.

That said, consumers can – and often want – to learn new behaviors, particularly for gaming, and I get excited thinking about how voice interaction could be put to use in new games. Whether for talking to characters in game or to eliminating the need for tactile, physical remotes, it could be really interesting to see how far this technology could be pushed.

All of this news comes just as news of OUYA’s low-cost Android gaming stick is making it’s way to market and Valve is developing a Steam Box gaming console. For all of the talk of the death of the console, things are getting pretty exciting again for a market that’s been pretty moribund in recent years.