How to Use Cortana On Xbox One

Keep playing and let Cortana do the work

Two women watching TV on their Xbox One console and controlling it with Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant
No controller or remote needed with Cortana on Xbox One.

 Mosa Images / DigitalVision

Whether you're using the basic Xbox voice commands or have chosen to take advantage of Microsoft's digital assistant, Cortana, controlling your Xbox One video game console is no longer restricted to just an Xbox controller or remote. The future is here and it's listening.

What Can I Do With Voice Commands on My Xbox One?

All Xbox One consoles feature support for voice controls that enable you to perform almost any task you can do with an Xbox controller or remote. Here's some of the more-popular things you can do simply by talking to your gaming console.

  • Turn your Xbox One on and off
  • Change your TV's volume
  • Open an app or video game
  • Pause and play movies and TV shows
  • Record videos of gameplay

What Do I Need For Xbox One Voice Controls?

To use voice controls on an Xbox One console such as an Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X, you will need either a Kinect sensor or a headset with a built-in mic that can attach to your Xbox controller.

Basic "Xbox" voice controls are limited to just the Kinect sensor while "Hey, Cortana" commands work with a Kinect and a mic.

Do I Need to Use Voice Controls on Xbox One?

Nobody needs to use voice controls on their Xbox One console as everything you can do with your voice can be done with a controller or remote.

Using the voice controls can be more convenient for some tasks though. For example, saying "Hey, Cortana. Go to Settings" is a much faster way to open Settings than manually clicking through layers of menus with your Xbox controller. Changing your TV's volume or pausing a movie with your voice is also quicker than using your remote.

Are Xbox and Cortana Voice Commands the Same?

The Xbox voice commands launched with the original Xbox One console in 2013 and remain as an option for users today. Microsoft's digital assistant, Cortana, came to the Xbox One in an update in 2016 and is meant to be a replacement to the original Xbox voice controls.

The Cortana voice option is available in some major markets such as the United States however it is not available in all regions.

While there is some crossover of functionality between the Xbox and Cortana voice commands when it comes to basic tasks such as turning a console on and off, starting a video game, or pausing video playback, the newer Cortana option can do much more due to its connection to Microsoft's cloud services and A.I. technology.

Here are some of the benefits that Cortana has over the older Xbox commands.

  • Cortana can talk back to you while the Xbox responses are text-only.
  • Cortana's dialog is more natural.
  • You can ask Cortana what your Xbox friends are doing.
  • Cortana can be used for voice dictation when searching online, writing a message, or posting a game clip description.
  • You can ask Cortana to tell you a joke or an interesting fact.

How to Turn on Cortana on Xbox One

When buying a new Xbox One console, the Cortana voice option may be enabled by default. If it hasn't been enabled and you wish to switch from the Xbox voice commands, you can do the following to turn it on.

  1. Press the circular Xbox logo button in the center of your Xbox controller to bring up the Guide. Scroll to the right to highlight the gear option and the word, Settings. Press the A button on your controller. Alternatively, if you have a Kinect connected to your Xbox One console, you can open Settings by saying, "Xbox, go to Settings."
  2. Once in Settings, highlight System and click on Cortana settings.
  3. You will be presented with the option to enable Cortana on your Xbox One. After reading the information on-screen, highlight I agree and press the A button once again. If Cortana is unavailable in your region, you will be shown a message asking you to wait until it's added in a future update instead.

How to Turn off Cortana on Xbox One

If you don't like using Cortana, you can switch back to the Xbox voice commands at any time via the following method.

  1. Say "Hey, Cortana. Go to Settings" to open Settings. You can also press the Xbox logo button on your controller to open the guide, scroll right to the gear icon, highlight Settings, and press the A button if you wish.
  2. Scroll down to System.
  3. Click on Cortana settings.
  4. Highlight the button that says On and press A on your Xbox controller to change it to Off.
  5. You will be prompted to restart your Xbox One for the changes to take effect. Click on the Restart now button on the screen to do so.

How to Link Cortana on Xbox One to Your Windows 10 PC

Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant can share user data between Windows 10 devices (such as PCs, Windows phones, and Xbox One consoles) and official Cortana apps on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

To check that data is being shared correctly, all you need to do use the same Microsoft account when logging into Windows 10 hardware (including the Xbox One) or the Cortana apps.

Useful Cortana and Xbox Voice Commands

To give your Xbox One console a voice command, say "Hey, Cortana" or "Xbox" followed by your command. Here are some useful phrases to get you started. The following dialogs work with both the Cortana and Xbox options.

Turning Your Xbox One On/Off

  • "Xbox on": Turns your Xbox on. You can also say "Turn on Xbox", "Turn on", or "Start Xbox".
  • "Xbox off": Turns your Xbox off. Alternative phrases which also work are, "Turn off my Xbox", "Turn off", and "Go to sleep".

Watching Movies, TV Shows, & Other Media

  • "Play", "Pause", "Fast forward", and "Rewind": These voice commands can be used to control any video being watched in any app on your Xbox One console such as YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix. The pause and play commands can also stop and start music playing in the Xbox Spotify and Pandora apps.
  • "Volume up" and "Volume down": These commands change the volume of your TV via the Kinect sensor on an original Xbox One or the IR blaster built into the Xbox One S and Xbox One X consoles. The original Xbox One cannot change the TV's volume without a Kinect.
  • "Mute" and "Unmute": Activates and deactivates the mute control on your TV. The same rules apply for the above volume commands.

Video Game Recording

  • "Record that": This will record a video clip of what just happened in your video game.
  • "Take a screenshot": This takes a photo of what's happening currently on screen.

Xbox One Navigation

  • "Go home": Exits a game or app and returns to the Xbox Dashboard.
  • "Show my stuff": If multiple users are logged in at the same time, saying this will load your personal settings and Dashboard. Everyone will remain logged in. This simply switches to your profile and content.
  • "Go to (game or app name)": Will open a video game or app. You can also say "Open" followed by the name of the app or game.

"Hey, Cortana" Exclusive Voice Commands

The following voice commands work only when the Cortana option is enabled. Each one must be preceded by "Hey, Cortana".

Xbox One Friends

  • "What's (name) doing?": Use this phrase to have Cortana tell you what one of your Xbox friends is doing right now. You can use their real name or gamertag.
  • "Is (name) online?": Say this to check if an Xbox friend is online.
  • "Start a party and invite (name)": This command immediately creates a party and invites your chosen Xbox friend.
  • "Send a message to (name)": This will create a direct message to send to an Xbox friend. Cortana will follow this up by asking you what you want the message to say and you can dictate the message directly to her.

Internet Functionality

  • "Search the web for (what you want to look up)": This will perform a Bing search for whatever word or phrase you choose.
  • "Go to (website address)": This will open a website in the Edge web browser. Make sure to say the website address as you would if you were telling it to a person. For example, Lifewire.com would be "Hey, Cortana. Go to Lifewire dot com".

Trivia

  • "What does (word) mean?": This looks up the meaning of a word online. You can also say "Define (word)" or "What's the meaning of (word)".
  • "What's three times nine?": Cortana can calculate most basic mathematical equations you ask her.
  • "What was the director of (movie name)?": Ask Cortana to look up answers to questions as you would on a search engine.

General Cortana Commands

  • "What can I say?": This entire phrase will bring up a list of everything Cortana can do on your Xbox One console.
  • You can also have some fun with Cortana commands on Xbox One by following "Hey, Cortana" with "Tell me a joke", "Tell me a story", "Tell me a scary story", or "Sing me a song"