BBC iPlayer launches on Xbox, integrating voice and gesture control features for the first time

BBC iPlayer launches on Xbox, integrating voice and gesture control features for the first time

You may remember that the BBC launched a new TV-friendly version of iPlayer last August, as it seeks to go beyond the tech-savvy and embed itself firmly in livingrooms across the UK.

Today, it takes another big step towards reaching this goal, as it rolls out on Microsoft Xbox Live and finally becomes available on all the major gaming platforms in the UK.

The BBC’s video-on-demand service launched initially back on Christmas Day 2007, and it has gradually become one of the most popular catch-up TV services in the UK. The launch means the BBC is the only UK content provider to make its programmes available for free to all Xbox 360 users in the UK.

The Next Web was given a hands-on with the new Xbox iPlayer app and, well, it comes complete with a couple of key features that will likely excite many users.

For the first time, BBC iPlayer can be searched and controlled using hand-gestures and voice-recognition. Users with Kinect can shout the name of the category, the programme title or even “HD On”, and their wish is Xbox’s command. As for gestures, you can control the whole interface by simply waving your hand…though from our testing, it wasn’t always the most responsive. Check out our quick demo video here – for the record, it was too noisy for us to effectively capture the voice-recognition feature, though we did see it in action and looked flawless:

Of course, you will still be able to control the app through more traditional manual means (i.e. your control pad), but this is a milestone development because of where this is likely to take us moving forward. Whilst it feels like the technology is still in its infancy, the fact that the ‘traditional’ BBC is embracing hand and voice-controlled technology is exciting.

BBC iPlayer is currently on more than 450 platforms and devices including Virgin Media, BT Vision, FreeSat, Freeview, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and smartphones, tablets, and Web-enabled TVs. The launch on Xbox Live today, in conjunction with the proposed roll-out on Sky later this year, will see iPlayer arrive in millions more livingrooms around the UK.

The BBC has seen 433 million requests on TV devices in 2011, representing a quarter of all programme requests. At this rate, the BBC is predicting that by 2015, more than half of requests will be via connected TV devices.

Xbox, meanwhile, already offers Sky, Channel 4, Channel 5, Netflix, LoveFilm, Blinkbox, MSN, YouTube and others, and until today iPlayer was a glaring omission in its media arsenal.

“We are delighted that BBC iPlayer is now available on Xbox Live,” said Stephen McGill, Director of Xbox and Entertainment for Microsoft. “Xbox 360 was the best-selling console in the UK and globally last year, while Xbox Live is one of the UK’s leading comprehensive VoD entertainment services on TVs. The addition of BBC iPlayer takes the service to the next level.”

Xbox Live users in the UK can download iPlayer for free from today.

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