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How to Use the Xbox One Without a Controller



It used to be that the only reliable way of interacting with something plugged into your television set was to pay for cheaply made universal reotes that allowed you to punch in a specific code for your television set. That’s not the case with the Xbox One. When video game consoles arrived on the scene, they forced players to pull up a chair to play their favorite titles all the while tethering players to their console with a long cable.

Later we started to see what was possible with wireless controllers. As long as a player was in the same room as their console and television, wireless controllers were a passable replacement for the wired controllers that had come to dominate gaming. With this console generation the controller has almost become a sort of afterthought.

Sure, those playing games on their Xbox One will always need to use the wireless controller for serious games, but there’s less of an emphasis on using a wireless controller for the entire Xbox One experience. A big reason for this is the types of things users can do with the Xbox One. Gaming is important but the Xbox One is also built to allow users to easily search for video content, to Skype chat with their friends and family, and to watch live television as easily and quickly as possible. A key part of bringing these scenarios to users is creating a way for them to interact with the console with as little friction as possible. After all, gamers may have spent almost two decades with a version of the Xbox controller but normal users, those who might just want to watch television or browse the internet, haven’t had a lot of time to master all fourteen buttons on the Xbox One controller.

For those users, that controller represents something foreign, something that stands in between them and truly making the most of their Xbox One outside of gaming. Here’s how to control the Xbox One without picking up a controller.

Control the Xbox One With Your Voice

The Kinect 2 for Xbox One is more powerful than the previous Kinect and offers more use than the PS4 camera.

The Kinect 2 for Xbox One.

Every Xbox One includes a Kinect 2 sensor and owners can use that sensor to control what’s happening on their console. For example, saying “Xbox, on” near an Xbox One that has low power mode enabled will make it spring to life and turn on your television set, speakers and cable box.Navigating around the console is also easy. Simply say “Xbox” and wait to see what commands you can make in the screen that you’re in. Anything in green will be treated as a command. For example, in the home screen saying “Xbox, open…” and naming one of the apps on your screen will launch that app. You’ll also be able to control what you do in that app.

Voice navigation on the Xbox One isn’t completely dependent on what screen you’re in either. The Xbox One has some commands that perform the same way wherever you are. “Xbox, Off” will trigger a pop-up notification that puts your console back into its lower power state if you have that functionality turned on. “Xbox, Go Home” takes you back to the console’s Start Screen immediately. “Xbox, Snap” allows you to add an app to the side of your screen and multitask. It’s most commonly used to play music while gaming or to watch television and read in Internet Explorer at the same time.

Use “Xbox, Record that” to create a video game clip. Pairing your Xbox Live Account with the new Twitch streaming app allows users to start streaming live gameplay to their friends simply by saying, “Xbox, broadcast.”

Voice commands do require users to have the Xbox One’s Kinect 2 sensor plugged in. Once you’ve done so, it wouldn’t hurt to use the Kinect tuner so that it can get a feel for the acoustics in your room. If you followed each step of the setup process when you unpacked your Xbox One you’ve already done this.

Control the Xbox One With Touch


My favorite way to control the Xbox One is with SmartGlass, the free companion app that’s available to iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and Windows Phone users. It mostly puts all the console’s capabilities in the palm of your hands. There’s a controller interface for pressing the A button in a game menu or competing in puzzle games I suppose. It also allows users to interact with their friends over Xbox Live whether you are.

The reason I love it though isn’t for any of that. I like SmartGlass because it can also be used to control apps. More specifically, it can act as a mouse and keyboard replacement for the awful on-screen keyboards of most of the apps.

Read: Xbox One SmartGlass Now Available

Users do have to sign into the SmartGlass app with their Microsoft Account the first time they open it. After that, it’ll log them in automatically so they can get to controlling their experience quickly. There are ways of speeding up this process on some smartphones. For example, my Lumia 925 comes equipped with an NFC chip. Simply tapping my phone on my coffee table triggers the SmartGlass app.

Control the Xbox One With Gestures

How to Update the Xbox One (1)

The Kinect 2 sensor included with every Xbox One also allows users to navigate the Xbox One’s interface with the two tools that are always at their disposal: their hands. With the Xbox 360, users could simply wave and select things on their screen by holding their hand in a specific area over a specific on-screen element. This type of navigation on the Xbox One is still possible, it’s just enabled a bit differently.

Read: Microsoft Shows Off How it Enhanced Kinect for Xbox One

With your Kinect 2 sensor plugged into your Xbox One, hold your left or right hand up with your palm facing the screen. Selecting items on the screen is done by pushing our hand forward. The Xbox One will acknowledge the selection you’ve made with a sound and take you directly to that item. Using gestures is best if you’re about to play a Kinect-enabled game, listen to some music, or watch a television show in Netflix or Xbox Video. Using gestures to enter entire words to search in apps like Hulu Plus and YouTube isn’t a very good idea.

No matter which of these ways you decide to adopt as your main way of interacting with your console, be sure to learn the others too. Some activities are best done through specific interactions. Of course, if you’re not playing a casual game, browsing the internet or enjoying media, picking up an Xbox One controller to play your games is going to be best.




  1. Jason Robinson ⚓ (@JRobinson19)

    04/24/2014 at 2:09 pm

    Once you get the Kinect tuned right and figure out the cadence to use the voice controls are really great. The last update really improved the Kinect.

  2. Crizz Hutch

    04/25/2014 at 4:52 am

    Or you just give up trying after days of head scratching. Working 80% of this time is not good enough!!!

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