The Xbox One interacts with your cable box in two ways: by sending it infrared signals from Kinect to change the channel, and by interpreting data sent from the cable box through an HDMI cable to the console to create the Xbox OneGuide.
The OneGuide is a super TV guide that displays all the information you're used to seeing in your cable company's normal guide, but with several more perks. For one thing, you can call out the names of channels or programming and Kinect will switch to them automatically.
There's also a favorites section that lets you pin cable channels, as well as channels from another unique section called "app channels." In app channels, services like Hulu and Machinima can create curated channels of content like trending clips and popular movies. And it's easy to pull content from all these different sources right onto your favorites list.