Microsoft Smartglass: Bringing the Second Screen to Your Home Theater

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\"XboxDual-Screen gaming appears to be the next forefront to explore further and at this year\’s E3 event, everyone was eager to show off their own take on the concept. Sony boasts dual-functionality between the PlayStation 3 and its mobile platform the PlayStation Vita. The Nintendo Wii U supports a controller equipped with its own display. Finally, Microsoft looks to connect smartphones, tablets, and PCs to its gaming rig with the Smartglass app.

While Smartglass is still in its infancy, there is one thing that the dual-screen service already has going for it: it\’s accessible. Both Nintendo\’s and Sony\’s takes on dual-screen gaming requires gamers to go out and buy additional peripherals, but with Smartglass, users will be able to use a device they likely already own. Whether you opt to use a smartphone, tablet, or Windows 8 PC, Smartglass apps are already available for free for Windows, Android, and Apple Operating systems.

\"SmartglassIntegrating a device with Xbox 360 is a breeze; all users have to do is download the application and sign in (using their Xbox Live Information). Once logged in, the application will sync with the Xbox 360, which admittedly can sometimes go awry. While trying to sign in a few times, I got a connection error, notifying me that the device could not connect to my Xbox. However, simply retrying to sync the device seemed to work perfectly, and once the device had become synced, there was no issue with the devices staying connected.

From there, users will basically have access to everything the Xbox 360 has to offer. Music and movies can be streamed directly to the device, users can interact with Xbox\’s social functions, and there is even limited integration with game titles. Currently only a handful of games offer Smartglass integration, including titles like Halo 4 and Dance Central 2.

With these titles Microsoft offers what is called a companion. When connected users can effectively view an additional screen with information. In some games it could be something utility driven, like an enlarged mini-map for players to see where their next objective is. Halo 4 in particular offers players additional information, whether it is there in-game statistics, or short blurbs depicting more of Halo\’s lore.

A New Controller

Game integration, at least currently isn\’t really what\’s interesting about Smart Glass. Instead the service is far more useful as an entertainment tool. In addition to viewing detailed secondary screens, users can also use Smartglass to turn their devices into a control for the Xbox 360.

With most of the devices equipped with touchscreen and some form of keyboard (whether its touch or QWERTY enabled), they are the perfect substitute for an Xbox 360 controller. Where scrolling through music files, searching the web, or traversing a Netflix queue used to be a hassle with the Xbox 360 controller, the experience is seamless and enjoyable thanks to Smartglass.

\"Smartglass\"

Easily the best feature so far is the ability to use your device\’s built-in keyboard to perform search functions, or type in URLs with the recent addition of Internet Explorer. It is simple, but anyone who has tried to type a message or URL with the Xbox 360 controller will tell you, it is not enjoyable.

As of right now, Smartglass is certainly meant to augment the Xbox 360\’s already burgeoning media ecosystem. With Netflix and YouTube integration, people are using the Xbox 360 for a wide array of tasks. Those looking to do more than just game will find Smartglass a solid addition to their Xbox 360 experience.

As I said earlier, Smartglass is still in its infancy, and it\’s very likely as dual-screen gaming matures we may see more in-game uses for Smartglass; especially with the release of the Wii U right around the corner, as developers will be looking for new and interesting ways to implement dual-screen mechanics. Now whether or not those mechanics will migrate from the Wii U over to Smartglass, only time will tell.

 

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