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New 360 dashboard and avatars in autumn

Sexy new front-end with new functions.

Microsoft unveiled a total overhaul of the Xbox 360's dashboard at its E3 briefing today and said it would be rolled out for free in the autumn.

The new dashboard is a minimalist affair with a few menu items in the top-left and an iTunes-style carousel of "blades" in the centre, allowing you to flick between your gamercard and quick links to media collections.

The update will also introduce the rumoured "Avatars", which give you a Playmobil-style 3D character whose appearance you can customise by sculpting the face, playing with haircuts and updating it with new clothes representing, er, new fashion trends among other things. We expect this will evolve into custom outfits for games and other promotional purposes.

Avatars will be represented in several areas of the Vista-esque dashboard, with your friends list becoming a far more visual experience. Instead of the dry text list of old, avatars will hang around on a virtual street corner, asking passing adults to buy them Woodpecker and Embassy No. 1 no doubt.

Users will also be able to swap some media via this interface (presumably not MP3s and movies though - back off, Captain Hook) and group together to watch slideshows and movies and play games like the new UNO Rush.

Other perks of the new system include a partnership with Endemol on a new Xbox 360 quiz game called 1 vs. 100. This will be a live, online affair where every contestant is a real user, potentially winning real prizes.

Netflix is also onboard for your movie needs, allowing non-physical DVD rental similar to the current system, although presumably better. Somehow.

We're going to be speaking to the Xbox Live crew tomorrow, so we'll try and squeeze more details out of them about all of this.

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