One of Microsoft’s big announcements at the E3 press conference was the arrival of Xbox SmartGlass with a lot of hype about how it would change how games played, the way we watch TV and movie and even the way we listen to music. Using apps on the Xbox itself, on tablets and Smartphones Microsoft said it would bring devices closer together.
Like Apple’s Airplay and Samsung’s All Share it looks to share entertainment between your devices and offer all kinds of neat little tricks to entertain you. It makes you wonder though when we play do we really want even more devices around us, and when we watch films do we really need more information, or do we just want to concentrate on the film itself?
In the demonstration the examples of use were between Windows 8 tablets, Windows Phone 7 smartphones and of course the Xbox. Applications will be free to allow the SmartGlass service to run but of course you will have to be LIVE member, no information has yet been given to say if some of the functionality will be saved for people with Gold membership. It is believed though that SmartGlass should work on other smartphones and tablets, not only Microsoft varieties. This is of course big news and welcome if it’s the case.
In the demonstration the functionality was shown off using Game of Thrones. An episode on played a map was shown on a tablet showing where the action was taking place. Also it was shown to be possible to move the actual show from the TV itself to the tablet, so if you suddenly have to move to another room you can take it with you. This is noticeably like the WiiU functionality that Nintendo are looking to offer with their games.
With films the real time information functionality was again shown showing you having the ability to read information on the actors and the making of the film based on the scene you being watched. There should be functionality to also connect instantly to other films using Netflix and Lovefilm which while interesting may get in the way of actually enjoying the film you are watching.
Of course one of the main uses will be for games. Madden for example was used as an example showing the ability to set tactics for the game. This is very interesting and for a game like Madden where tactics can be a big part of the game could be very interesting. A balance will need to be found though where the tablet or smartphone is not a hindrance to the enjoyment of the game itself.
While SmartGlass is very impressive in concept it’s not as new as Microsoft seems to believe it is. The technology they created may be new but the idea is already in the WiiU (in a simpler form) and was shown last year at E3 before they showed more this year. The fact that the functionality is on tablets and smartphones of course is a big plus as this means the technology to use the app is already available and will hopefully mean just an upgrade to the actual software.