Sony clearly has big plans for the PlayStation ecosystem going forward. Earlier this week it confirmed the long-standing existence of PlayStation Plus Premium with the reveal of multiple tiers, backwards compatibility and streaming now included in your subscription. Big changes are coming as it hopes to compete with Xbox Game Pass and Switch Online.
However, with big changes there are inevitably some teething issues, and the latest preview update for PS5 has already made them very apparent. The user interface has undergone some subtle and welcome changes, such as integrating browsing your downloads, friends list, and other social features into a single menu. This saves a few button presses and helps make the console a bit more modern in terms of navigation.
Improvements like this are amazing and a natural part of growing a console as the hype of the launch wears off and the companies behind it are free to iterate. Unless you’re Nintendo, which I swear has done next to nothing to brighten up the Switch. The world will have surrendered to nuclear oblivion before we receive custom themes and backgrounds on this thing. But for the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S: every major update feels like bringing something new to the table.
Despite all of these advancements leaving me feeling warm and fuzzy, I’d be silly to admit that the PS5’s new voice controls are good. They suck, like a first generation Siri or Cortana with all the flaws apparent. At the time of writing it only recognizes a handful of commands and will respond to the majority of queries by telling you that it doesn’t understand you or that the programming behind it isn’t set up for anything more complicated than navigate to a specific site. menu or launch a game or application. From what I can tell, it can’t even take screenshots, which is what I would actually use it for.
Now, I’ll give them some slack and admit that Sony is clear that this feature is in preview right now, even providing a list of commands it’s capable of adhering to at the time of writing. It can’t do much at the moment, and it seems the goal is just to see how beta testers react to its presence and if they actually use it. You can completely disable the feature, but if enabled, it will react to headphones you have plugged in next to the built-in microphone found in the DualSense controller. It can be muted at the press of a button, so that’s no big deal, and you’ll want to because the voice commands will activate whenever the “PlayStation” world or something vaguely similar is brought up in the conversation.
But even with the improvements to come in future updates, these voice commands largely feel like a novelty, a neat feature we’ll play with for a few minutes before realizing that using them on a regular basis is far less effective than the controller in our hands. The PS4 implemented a similar set of voice commands on the interface that were similarly ignored. For example, I didn’t even know they were added until I turned on the console and saw them for myself. When PlayStation Premium arrives and my library of games grows significantly thanks to the presence of backwards compatibility, I’ll probably use them more, especially considering how tedious it is to scroll through my library looking for a single game. Just being able to say his name and see him launch would be awesome.
Maybe they’ll get better, but right now voice commands on PS5 are a nice feature without much practical use. I can’t even ask him to take screenshots of my sick Elden Ring pieces.
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