updated 11:34 am EDT, Fri May 24, 2013
Latency-insensitive computation work passed to the cloud from console
Microsoft will be using its new 300,000-server cloud system to help the Xbox One with game calculations. The cloud architecture will be performing "latency-insensitive computation" on behalf of the console, with it being used as an incentive for users to keep their game consoles connected to the Internet while they play games.
General Manager of Redmond Game Studios and Platforms Matt Booty explained to Ars Technica that this system will allow for calculations for light, volumetric fog, and other non-essential visual items will be handled by the company's bank of servers, and then fed back to the console. In terms of how much power would be available online for gamers to use individually, Booty suggested "A rule of thumb we like to use is that for every Xbox One available in your living room we'll have three of those devices in the cloud available." If an Internet connection drops or is insufficient, the games will be able to continue playing without it, but the fidelity will improve if connected.
While non-essential data is being worked on in the cloud, latency-sensitive computations such as "reactions to animations in a shooter, reactions to hits and shots in a racing game, reactions to collisions" will happen on the Xbox One itself "immediately and on frame and in sync with your controller," according to Booty. "The cloud can do the heavy lifting, because you've got the ability to throw multiple devices at the problem in the cloud."
Booty later goes on to talk about the upgraded Kinect sensor, and the requirement for it to always be on. He suggested it to be crucial to the experience, and likens it to looking at older iterations of hardware, such as when games would market themselves as having support for mice, and giving the analogy "A laptop would be cheaper without a keyboard, but you wouldn't think of doing it without it."
He also avoided a question about the Xbox One's television capabilities, declining to directly answer if it would be able to record TV shows. It was hinted that such an item would not be available due to various copyrights issues.