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Published on June 4th, 2012 | by Ernie Estrella


E3 2012: Microsoft Levels Up Nintendo’s Wii-U with ‘Xbox Smart Glass’

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While Nintendo figures out how to tell its next generation of consumers how the Wii-U works and what you need to play with it, Microsoft pulled the rug from underneath Nintendo and announced their own second-screen technology at their 2012 E3 Press Conference earlier today. XBOX Smart Glass is a free app that gives gamers and electronic users that new experience whether they are playing games, watching movies, browsing the web or listening to music.

While Nintendo has been milking the anticipation of what unique game experiences can be done with a second screen controller, Microsoft beat them to the punch and showed how Madden NFL would work with a second screen, for example, an iPad becomes a touch screen playbook, draw up a play in the sand, or on your smart phone or tablet and quickly draw up an audible in real game time. Another demo showed how a second screen can be used to find better matches for online play in Halo 4, or to keep track of your kill stats in real time, never having to pause the game and pull up another separate menu screen.

xbox smart glass

The best thing about Smart Glass? You won’t need to buy any hardware because you already own it. Smart Glass technology is (supposedly) going to work on all of your mobile PC, Apple and Android powered devices including cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. They figure you already have these devices sitting beside you while you’re gaming, so why not incorporate them into the gaming experience too?

What they don’t explain is how many games will have this experience, how much will that added experience ultimately cost gamers, how much space you need in your mobile device to run this app, will there be separate apps for each game, or one general app for all the games, and how easy the learning curve is going to be to get all of this operational on all of your devices. Nintendo has all of the technology built in and every one of the gamers will be on the same playing field who invest into the Wii-U. That’s a key difference. There is going to be some awkwardness too in playing with a console controller and switching to a phone or a tablet constantly while gaming, unless of course, it is a co-op experience. Until we get our hands on this and people begin implementing this into all of their technology can we really determine, which if either, is actually better than the other.

In combination with Kinect and Smart Glass, Microsoft is bringing Internet Explorer to the Xbox 360 as a browser that can be powered using voice commands. And in watching television or a movie through the Xbox will allow you to have different experiences, for example, watching Game of Thrones, a second screen can become a map to watch and see how the army is moving across the map as it is happening on your television, or Smart Glass can convert the second screen into a mobile IMDB or handheld press notes for a film. You can partially view a movie on your tablet on a business trip, pause it and then throw it up on your television to finish it. No word yet on if Netflix on board but it is assumed that the online rental service has to be a major target to open up the library from what HBO Go and XBox Video currently offers.

Microsoft is basically trying to turn your Xbox 360 into your stand-alone do-all device. They’ve partnered up with ESPN and all of the major sports networks (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) to create the ultimate sports fan package where you can switch from viewing different sports, pause live games, and manage multiple live or older games simultaneous, again using the voice command technology. That package is already better than anything currently offered by Apple TV. Phase 2 of Microsoft’s sports and fitness hub is the new partnership with Nike to create Nike+ Kinect Training and do away with that expensive trainer and do it all in your living room.

With all of this planned increase use of the Microsoft network, Windows 8Kinect and voice command, there was unfortunately no announcement made of an upgrade in the Kinect software so it doesn’t miss your commands or misinterpret what it is you’re trying to say. Hopefully upgrades will be made via firmware.

None of what Smart Glass is proposing is anything we haven’t heard before, this is the latest attempt to streamline the future of entertainment into one of the several boxes that can do it all. A live map for Game of Thrones? That’s expected. If they really wanted to blow us away, they’d show how we could create our own Game of Thrones title sequences or allow us to interact with the title credits. I mean, give us a taste of the impossible, Microsoft, why don’t you?!

Does every gamer need an ultimate sports package or use the Kinect to work out? No, but this feeds those consumers who are constantly finding new ways around paying for cable, and takes TV-internet browsing to another evolution. Microsoft looks like it has addressed a few of those consumer dream wishes and they’re heavily targeting the sports and workout junkie who also likes to game.

Will it catch on? Can they continue to deliver all of this content in the far future, such as a supreme sports package at a reasonable sweet price that will get people to return their cable boxes? That all remains to be seen. How many games will have this companion experience? How many designers and developers want to write for this added experience? There are so many more questions that need to be answered.

What is surprising though is while everyone was expecting a next generation console for Microsoft, no one predicted they would instead get into the second-screen gaming. We’ve still yet to see if consumers would buy in, but it appears that at least Microsoft and Nintendo are investing heavily into it. Smart Glass is launching this fall.

Thoughts on Xbox Smart Glass? Are you drawn to Smart Glass or Nintendo’s Wii-U? Neither? How does all of this affect Sony’s next move? Should they invest into the second screen experience too? Can we expect for Sony to develop the Vita into a a second screen experience? Share your reactions below.

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  • Billy Bob Johnson

    Lol, do you work for Microsoft or something? Smart Glass is garbage; Nintendo’s solution is fully integrated, not some bizzare, half-a hybrid. With the exception of Live, Microsoft’s vision is a ripoff and expansion of Nintendo’s, as usual.  If they didn’t have their other segments (Windows, Office, Exchange) to bail out their VG division economically, they’d be sunk.

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