Microsoft Adding Controller-Free Netflix, Hulu Plus to Kinect

LAS VEGAS—Though Netflix this week announced plans for remote controls with a dedicated Netflix button, Microsoft announced Wednesday that it is taking the movie service – and its online competitor Hulu – to the controller-free world of Kinect.

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As part of his opening Consumer Electronics Show keynote, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer announced that starting this spring, Xbox users who use the game console to access Netflix or Hulu’s subscription-based Hulu Plus can control both services simply by gesturing at or speaking directly to the Kinect.
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Xbox users can access Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” streaming library; rather than clicking through selections on the screen, wave your hand in front of Kinect to swipe through your queue or new releases. Or speak to the Kinect and tell it to stop, pause, or move to the next film. Likewise, Hulu Plus subscribers can move through entire seasons of their favorite TVs shows with the flick of a hand or a few voice commands.

Microsoft described the move as “all part of our vision to bring partner content plus the magic of Kinect straight into your living room.”

To that end, Microsoft is sprucing up its avatars via Avatar Kinect. The feature will track facial expressions to register things like smiles, eyebrow movement, and other movements on your Xbox Avatar. It’s coming free to Xbox Live Gold members this spring, Ballmer said.

Kinect has been a hit for Microsoft. Ballmer announced that in its first 60 days, Microsoft sold over 8 million Kinect devices, much more than the 5 million the company predicted.

“This has been the biggest holiday and the biggest year ever for Xbox,” Ballmer said.

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