MS shows Kinect Hub and Video Kinect

Plus Zune and ESPN Xbox Live deal.

Microsoft today showed off the new Kinect Hub and Video Kinect as part of its sales pitch for the technology formerly known as Project Natal.

The Kinect Hub is a portal to controller-free games and other entertainment sources that you can navigate by waving your hands or by barking instructions at your 360.

During several on-stage demos during its E3 conference, Microsoft explained that "if you can see it, you can say it" - i.e. if you want to open Zune Marketplace you can go "Xbox, Zune" and off it goes.

Voice commands looked impressive - you could move between scenes in video playback as well as pausing, rewinding and so on.

Speaking of Zune, the Marketplace is set to receive an upgrade soon that will deliver seven million tracks to Xbox Live, also integrating with the more than 16,000 music videos already on Zune Marketplace. Apparently if you already own a video it will play when you listen to the song.

As for Video Kinect, it's another Skype-style video conferencing tool, except it uses Kinect's voice controls and tracking to do extra stuff.

For example, if you move in your seat Kinect will be able to follow you around the room so you're never out of sight. You and the person you're talking to can also watch videos together - with a playback window appearing in the centre of the screen between the pair of you.

Elsewhere during the conference, Microsoft unveiled a partnership with ESPN that will allow Xbox Live gold users to watch all sorts of programming for free. It looked like a US initiative, but it went down well with the assembled crowd.

It also gave those of us in the UK a look at Josh Elliott and Trey Wingo from ESPN Sportscenter, whose on-stage patter at least sounded vaguely natural. Nice to see Trey Wingo getting work after the starter zones in WOW, too.

Kinect is due out on 4th November. Check out our live blog of the Microsoft E3 conference for more.

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