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***This guide is currently under construction, with the console sections to be added later as well as everything being gradually tidied up***
Microsoft's Xbox One had a tough launch period, with kinect launch titles like "fighter Within" being panned by critics. However, it's been a long time since the console first entered the market and now it is still a viable alternative for blind and visually impaired gamers, in spite of it's relative lack of playable games (at least for the former demographic).
This article aims to demonstrate that the console's accessibility, whilst not in line with PC standards at the moment,is at least a true testament to the legacy set by it's predecessor, the Xbox 360, released back in 2005.
Microsoft accounts and gamertags: debunking a few myths of sorts
Gamertags have been around as long as XBox Live was in existence. They are what your friends and other gamers know you by in online lobbies and the like, unless of course you choose to share your real name with your friends - a privacy related debate that I won't get into here. However, when setting up for the arrival of my Xbox One, I had a few burning questions that I thought other people might benefit from hearing answers to.
- Can I have an alternative email address for my gamertag?
Yes you most certainly can! This question stems from the fact that the only information I could find about Gamertags was to do with Microsoft accounts. However, when you
make your microsoft account
, you can actually choose to use an alternative email address. Just enter it in the box and it'll work, there shouldn't be any issues.
- Can I use SmartGlass without having the console to pair it with? How much functionality will I getout of the app?
Definitely. You don't actually need the console for SmartGlass to work. Just sign in with your details and you should be good to go!
- Can I cue downloads before I get the console so that I can get things going as quickly as possible?
Yes you can, although the downloads won't start automatically when you turn on the console. At least, they didn't for me. It might just be better to wait and then download the items when your console is set up and on.
Speaking of the Microsoft app, whilst Xbox 360 SmartGlass was a bit of a pain to get working, it did a couple of interesting things that were quite useful, not least of which was allowing you to launch games from a windows 8 compatible device without even touching your controller.
The Xbox One counterpart, a separate app in the Windows and ITunes App Store as well as on Android, is a whole new way of looking at the features of the 360 version. It has several useful features including being able to watch game DVR clips while on the go, viewing in-game help manuals and, perhaps most useful of all, allowing you to purchase items (only free ones have been tested) directly from within the app.
Running under Windows 10, the Xbox One app, simply called Xbox, is very easy to use (although there are a few quirks that are frustrating).
The Xbox One controller, hereafter refered to simply as "the controller", is similar to the xbox 360 version. The Xbox button has been redesigned into an interesting raised circle of sorts with the logo imprinted into it, which is a lot less strange than the 360. Actually, I'm going to spend so much time comparing the two that I'll give my first recommendation about this part of the system: if you can, try one. If you do try one, try it with a game you know, likely to be via using it through a PC.
The controller itself is well built, as you'd expect from a first party product. The buttons are responsive (including the Dpad), with the analogue sticks being smooth and precise. The triggers, whilst evolved from the X360 equivalent, are still as sharp as ever with the only minor point being the new bumpers.
Where you could previously press the bumper anywhere along its length to activate whatever function the game ties it to, those on the next generation controller are more finicky. Whilst not unusable by any means, they require an element of practice to master, with not pressing in on the edges being the best way I found of making them do as expected.
The play and charge kit controller
The play and charge version of the controller, unlike the standard wireless controller comes with two important things: A lithium-Ion (LI) battery, allowing for long-term recharging without using large numbers of double A batteries, in addition to a micro USB cable.
Unboxing your Play and Charge Controller
Before you get access to your new controller, you'll need to open the box. To do this you'll need a pair of scissors to cut the tape then you'll pretty much be ok, or at least you should be. Things are packaged in an orderly fashion, with the usual instructional manuals and such included as well.
Inserting the LI Battery
The battery is a kind of long, slightly squashed close to cylindrical shape, like those featured in the 360 version, with a couple of small redesigns. You simply slide off the back pannel of the controller (which takes a while to get used to, not that you'll do it that often with the play and charge version), then push the battery in so that the small contact inserts into the whole in the controller. Push the other side of the battery, making sure that the xbox logo is facing upwards. This assumes that you have the controller with sticks facing downwards towards the floor. If all goes well, the battery should click into place, with the pannel being able to be slid back over the top and click in securely.
For those of you who play fighting games, the directional pad (DPad) will be a crucial part of any controller. Although of course the verdict will be subjective as to whether you like it or not, it is agreed by a large number of people that it is superior to that of the xbox 360 controllers. It has a "clicking" sound that you'll have to see if you can get on with, but feels solid enough. I'd say when you get one of these controllers, just try maybe jumping around in a fighting game or two, movement is something that might take getting used to a little with this. It's not bad to say the least though and pretty good considering the track record of first party microsoft controllers.
Why is the play and charge version a good idea
The Play and charge version of the controller works with any Xbox One games of course, but also with any PC games that support xbox 360 controllers, without you needing to buy anything else! This is simply due to the inclusion of the micro USB cable as well as your iwndows operating system, if it has all the latest updates on Windows 7 and higher, having the correct drivers installed. Not only that, but it means that you won't go through a multitude of disposable batteries, or even rechargeable ones, whilst gaming. So to game on Windows with this new piece of kit, plug in your micro usb cable, make sure you're running the latest version of Windows 7 or higher (updates or higher) and start playing!
But I don't know how to make sure the drivers are installed
This site and its author do not take any responsibility for any damage, physicallyor otherwise that is caused through the installation or incorrect installation of any drivers.
Although the drivers are installed in Windows 8 via Windows Update, if you're not sure, I believe
this article from PC World
should help you get things sorted.
To reconfirm, those using windows 8.1 should be fine, as should those using windows 8. However, windows 7 users will probably need to follow the instructions above or
these, taken directly from majornelson's blog.
Unboxing the console itself.
The following information is written to help those with a xbox+kinect package, I cannot say for certain if the packaging for non-kinect models would be any different (other than, of course, the lack of a Kinect):
Two pieces of tape seal the box, simply take scissors to these –they shouldn’t be too hard to get through.
Place the box with the handle facing towards you, with the open ceils facing the floor.
Pull the flap up and away from you to reveal the Kinect furthest away from you, with a cardboard cover at the front.
Lift this up and away to reveal two sections.
On top of these sections you find paperwork including quick setup guides, a 14 day Xbox live gold membership trial as well as possibly other codes (mine came with dance central Spotlight as a free download).
Closest to you on the right hand side is the kettle lead half of the power brick, which goes into the wall.
Behind that is the brick itself, in a polythene bag.
Additionally, this section contains an HDMI lead in a second polythene bag.
On the left-hand side are the chat headset in a polythene bag and an Xbox one wireless controller along with 2 aa batteries in a polystyrene-like material.
Now that the “tray” is empty you can lift from the section closest to you and move it out of the way.
Now let’s turn to the Kinect, which is still sitting at the back of the box or at least, it should be.
While you'd think you can just lift the Kinect straight out of the box, on closer inspection you'll see that there is a long horizontal piece of cardboard at the very back of the box.
Lift this away revealing the wires, this will allow you to pull the Kinect free.
Now the Kinect is out of the box, you can simply take the part of the "tray" closest to you and lift the whole thing away at once.
This reveals four pieces of polystyrene packing surrounding the console itself, which is covered by yet more polystyrene-like material.
These panels with a little work slide away from the sides of the console allowing you to remove it.
Once the packing around the sides is removed, don't try lifting with one hand on each side.
Instead, lever it up on one side (I used the right-hand side), using the packing underneath to assist.
Then once the console is at 90 degrees, you can simply pull it free, removing any packing that decides to hang around.
The console is wrapped in polystyrene-like packing that has tape in several places including the bottom. Make sure you remove all the tape first (it just pulls away easily).
There you have it, your console and all the various pieces you're going to need to get started!
Brief notes on the console setup
the setup process for the console itself is rather complicated, even though most of it consists of pressing a for a good while. You will want sighted help in this so you don't accidentally break anything.
One of the great things about kinect is that you don't need to do a voice check, just an audio one to make sure you can be heard over your speakers. No more reading strings of numbers out so it understands you as was the case with the Xbox 360 version.
You'll also have to download an update patch at the beginning, which even though it takes a while might as well be done then. After all, I can't confirm if it's skippable or not, so you might as well get it done with.
Your download speeds will vary. If I have learnt one thing about the Xbox One, it would be that the downloads speeds fluctuate. However, even if you have to leave the console on for a prolonged period, you most likely won't be disturbed - it's surprisingly quiet, especially compared to it's predecessor.
Sign in, with your face!
Yes, you're not reading a science fiction work. You can, with the help of kinect, elect to allow it to sign you in using your face. This makes it so much easier than entering your microsoft account info every time. You don't have to do this though, but it's a quick way to get gaming.
Stand back a little - this allows the kinect to see you clearly, if you're facing it. If you look at it and wait, you should hear a 2 tone seequence, one tone an octave above the other. This indicates that it recognises you and has signed you in.
How are the voice commands?
The voice commands on the new kinect work a little differently to those on the 360. Instead of saying xbox, waiting for the UI to acknowledge, then saying the rest of the commands in the same flat, monotonous voice, you simply say xbox and then your command.
For example, you can just say Xbox, go to killer instinct to launch the game if it's installed. It will recognise you as long as you enunciate your words. Also I noticed astrange thing during initial testing. The quirk in question was that the Kinect seemed to need to see your face clearly - I think it reads your lips whilst saying commands but I can't be sure. Maybe it's just a little off with the calibration, or i wasn't giving a long enough pause between saying Xbox and the command in question (about 0.25 of a second should do). Regardless of the reason, once you get used to the process it's not too difficult.
Turning on your controllers
When you want to turn on your xbox, you can do it one of at least two ways.
First and by far the quickest, if you have it set up (which I believe it is by default), is to simply say "xbox on". The console should beep with 3 short tones, and then begin to power on. When your home screen loads the xbox should make a typical whooshing sound and then you're in. This only works with the console being set to Instant On mode and not being completely turned off as if you were going to power cycle.
The second way to activate your console, when your xbox one is turned off, is to press and hold the xbox button on your controller. It should turn on along with the console.
The third and probably the most obvious, is to press the power button on the console. Actually, a quick note about the power button. It's near enough invisible to a user with no vision at all. Microsoft have yet again introduced touch buttons to the console but rather than having them in a recess like the predecessor, they just have it as part of the plain flat surface. However, once you know where the button is (just above and along from the right-hand side of the console when the disc drive is facing towards you), it's less of a problem than you might think.
The power button is also useful when performing hard resets and power cycling when your console decides to not cooperate.
Do things download automatically?
When I signed in for the first time, items I'd purchased before the console was first used didn't start downloading automatically. However, with sighted help this was resolved.
It also seems that when the xbox is on, things you install via smartglass will download automatically.
Game DVR is an interesting concept - recording into the past, as it were. I haven't quite finished figuring it all out, but I'll explain what I know.
Just had a great moment that you want to capture within anything up to the last 5 minutes? You can save it as a temporary clip by going into the guide (double-tap the Xbox button), then press X (square for those familiar with Ps4 controls). You should then hear a notification sound and that will, if you ahve enough space in your DVR Storage, be that.
If you want to change how long you're recording for, go into settings and under game dvr and streaming, have a look around and you'll eventually find options that will allow you to record anything from 30 seconds to 5 minutes all at the touch of a button.
The problem is that saving these clips is far from easy. Yes, it's doable but, in terms of the console at least, not really without sighted assistance. There are workarounds but I will not go into those here as there is a possibility that they violate something in Microsoft's terms of service.
The Xbox One App on Windows 10
The Xbox One app is a great improvement over its Windows 8 Smartglass counterpart. The interface is near enough totally usable and I will discuss streaming, connecting to consoles etc
When you first launch the app, simply called "Xbox" from the start menu, you'll be prompted to sign in with an Xbox live account. If you don't have one, then create one as discussed earlier. Once you've done that, you'll see a "let's play" button. Press enter or click on that and you should be good to go.
By far the most useful feature of this app is being able to stream games from your Xbox One directly to your PC. To do this, however, you first need to be sure that "allow streaming apps to other devices" (or a similarly named box) is ticked in your console's settings. Since this was turned on by default in my console, I'll say that it is likely to be the same unless you've turned it off beforehand.
Connecting your device
Allowing your PC to actually interface with your console is less problematic if you have no vision. If you tab through the options, you will find a "connect"button. Press enter on that and a menu will slide into place without any prompt from your screen reading technology. Tab through until you find a button that says add a device, when you press enter on that you will see a list of devices. If, like me, you only have one Xbox One, just click the only item in that list.
Once you do, it should connect automatically. Now comes the interesting part.
Streaming to your PC
If you want to stream to your PC, make sure you have an Xbox One controller plugged in to your computer and make sure you're signed into your Xbox One (via facial recognition, password, etc). Then look (using tab) for the "connected" button. Click this and tab over to "stream". All being well, the app should pair with your console and stream the game you're currently playing, or the Xbox One's UI itself.
It might be better to start playing a game first though just so you have something to listen out for (i.e. music, sound effects etc).
Activating a game from the app
This can be a little tricky, but it's certainly doable. If you have achievements in the game you want to play, you can go to that game in the achievements list and press enter on it. Once you get there, the screen gives you access to a "play from console" button. Once you press that, it should start the stream automatically.
Other notes for Xbox One users persuaded by the PS4
Screen reader coming in November update
In a recent video, Major Nelson (A.K.A. Larry Hryb) showed a screenshot of the new "ease of access area" in the update coming to Xbox One systems in November. Currently the area includes 3 options - high contrast, closed captions, and Narrator. How exactly Narrator will work will be interesting to see and this guide will be updated to reflect its inclusion in what some, as of the time of writing, are calling the "new Xbox One experience".
The current situation
As of 12th November 2015, the initial release of the NXOE is available around the world. However, Narrator is not currently available outside the U.S. Frustrated? Annoyed? Angry? Not sure why this is the case? Feel free to
voice those opinions
. For those who want to try out narrator, here's how to do just that:
***Disclaimer: The author of this site and the site itself take no responsibility for any damage,physical, software-based or otherwise, that occurs to users consoles as a result of trying this workaround.***
Note: You will need sighted assistance to complete this to make sure that you click the right options. You can either get this in a face-to-face environment, or by using an app such as Facetime or similar to obtain assistance via the internet.