Karaoke—the ancient japanese art of belting out forgotten Neil Diamond tunes—is, for better or worse, all the corporate team-building rage. Now Microsoft is joining in, outfitting its popular Xbox with a karaoke add-on. No need to lug rented equipment and CDs to your next office retreat. Just download songs from XboxKaraoke.com to the Xbox's hard drive, grab the sing-along microphone, and you've got days' worth of pure team-building fun.
As with all pioneering technologies, there are several drawbacks to Xbox karaoke compared with its analog forebears. You have to provide the screen and speakers for an Xbox (as opposed to the self-contained karaoke setup found in restaurants and at weddings). So if all you have is a mono-speakered 13-inch TV, the experience is less than thrilling. Plus, Xbox's 20,000 songs don't come cheap. Individual tracks go for $1.99 a pop, with themed five-packs for $9.95. The upside: The mixer will strip the lyrics from any favorite CD, rendering it instantly karaoke-able. (Xbox Music Mixer: $39.95; Xbox unit: $179.99; www.xbox.com)
A version of this article appeared in the March 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.