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Xbox update: TV and voice, gesture control

Microsoft Corp. is rolling out a new interface for its Xbox game console, one that allows users to navigate through music, movies, TV shows and games with the wave of a hand or the sound of a voice.

The interface, first demonstrated by chief executive Steve Ballmer in September, is similar to Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system, with a series of large panes showing content options.

Xbox owners who have or buy the $149 Kinect motion sensor can swipe through screens by waving their hand in the air. It also responds to direct voice commands and incorporates Microsoft's Bing search engine. Windows phone users can tap them as a remote control. The interface will be available for download Tuesday to Xbox users connected to the Internet.

In a demonstration, a Microsoft employee showed how saying, clearly, "Xbox. Bing. 'Iron Man,' " brought up a selection of movies, TV shows, games and soundtracks related to the title. Saying "Xbox. Show. Movies," displayed places to rent or buy the movie, including Microsoft's Zune store, Wal-Mart's Vudu, Netflix or pay TV channel Epix. Separate subscriptions are required for services such as Netflix, and much of the content also requires gold membership in Xbox Live, an Internet service that costs $60 a year.

Microsoft says there have been 57 million Xbox units sold worldwide and more than 35 million users have logged on to Live at least once in the past three months. It did not divulge how many Xbox Live users are paying gold members.

Many of the offerings require separate pay TV subscriptions or one-time payments. Ross Honey, general manager of Xbox Live entertainment and advertising, said many deals with content providers are still in the works.

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