Microsoft just unveiled the Xbox One media remote. Here’s its backstory.


(Microsoft)

Since shifting to optical media, video game consoles have slowly become multimedia hubs in living rooms across the world. And with that role came remotes to help non-gamers more easily navigate the media features of consoles.

Thursday, Microsoft unveiled the media remote for its latest Xbox One console. It's a slim minimalist black bar of a device with just as many buttons as needed to manage controlling Blu-ray or streaming video playback. The remote will hit stores in March and retail for $24.99.

The original Xbox remote

Remote-xbox1

The original Xbox remote shared a similar minimalist design with the most recent generation -- all black, white, or neon green, but with a few additional buttons including a 0-9 pad.  That console generation is when video game systems really started to be more fully functional media machines. It's when online console gaming became more common, and the Xbox and PlayStation 2 both were able to play DVDs.

But while the PlayStation 2 let users control the DVD functionality with a standard controller or a separate remote, the Xbox required the purchase of an additional remote to unlock DVD functionality. The remote plug-in used up one of the controller slots on the console.

Xbox 360's three remotes

(via aditza121)
(via aditza121)

By the Xbox 360, DVD playback was a built-in feature that didn't require an additional remote. But the first premium generation of console shipped with a media remote in some markets -- sometimes called the "mini" remote.

It was about the same length as the original Xbox remote but included a different array of buttons, including some matching the Y, X, A, and B buttons from the controllers and came in white to match the original launch color.

(Microsoft)
(Microsoft)

There was also a more heavy duty Xbox 360 remote offered at retail -- the "Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote." Like the mini remote, it was white. But it was a fair amount longer, and could interact with some televisions for channel and volume control.

(Microsoft)
(Microsoft)

The final Xbox 360 remote is the currently offered 'Xbox 360 Media Remote.' Essentially an update of the universal remote, it offers most of the same features, but in a sleeker glossy black version that matches the last premium versions of the 360.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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