Xbox SmartGlass refines the second screen experience, even as the next gen looms


If Microsoft has its way, every Xbox user will have a tablet or smartphone working in concert with its gaming console.

For those that missed Microsoft’s many attempts to publicize it, Xbox SmartGlass allows smartphones, tablets, or Microsoft Windows 8 PCs to be used as secondary screens for a variety of console-hosted applications. Get the rundown of characters and actors for your favorite TV series, see different camera angles when watching major sports events, be able to check out secondary data when immersed in a game; it’s all things Microsoft has been promising since it debuted SmartGlass back at E3 last year.

But SmartGlass has evolved since its initial release on Windows 8 last August. The app is now available on iOS and Android, though Microsoft’s Rosa Thomas (seen above), principal program manager for SmartGlass, not surprisingly insists that the best SmartGlass experience would continue to be on Microsoft-based hardware. SmartGlass can take advantage of Smart Tiles on Windows Phone or Windows 8, displaying realtime updates of the different connected apps you may have on your Xbox console.

SmartGlass communicates with the console both through the cloud and via a local WiFi connection. Best performance is available when connected on your home WiFi network, but some communication through the cloud still happens. On the developer side, their service looks like a web site to SmartGlass. On the client device, SmartGlass can use the Webkit browser tools – needed for iOS and Android – or an embedded version of Internet Explorer. In other words, SmartGlass is a purpose-built, web-based application.

SmartGlass improves on dedicated apps or browsers because of its ability to automatically discover connectable software on the console after you take the initial step of connecting your handheld device to the Xbox. You don’t have to search for a specific app. The developer can skin SmartGlass to look similar to the app that’s connected.

On the gaming side, SmartGlass already supports Forza Horizon, the most recent iteration of the Forza series of virtual racing games. Route maps can be displayed realtime on the tablet, while certain actions and users can set filters to simplify the map’s appearance.

Phillip Profit of Microsoft’s Advanced Technology Group, demonstrated Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge running on an Xbox 360 in conjunction with SmartGlass. SmartGlass can show ongoing progress in the game, including near-instantaneous updates to achievements as gamers make progress towards completion. Any particular achievement being worked on will filter to the top of the list, making progress viewing easier.

Track your achievement progress with SmartGlass while playing Ninja Gaiden III.
Track your achievement progress with SmartGlass while playing Ninja Gaiden III.

Even cooler is the ability to contextually bring up YouTube videos of how other users may have completed particularly difficult sections of the game. The player doesn’t have to search for a particular section; SmartGlass knows what level is being played and any upcoming bosses on the level, and brings up videos pertinent to traversing the level being played.

Thomas noted during the Q&A session that a few features were deliberately left out. SmartGlass has no access to the Kinect camera, for example – not because of technical limitations, but for privacy reasons. SmartGlass is also currently only made for Xbox play – no support for Windows games is currently in the works.

SmartGlass is a step along the path to seamlessly integrating gaming and multimedia experiences across a variety of devices. It’s Microsoft’s version of having the console experience wherever you go, on whatever mobile device you prefer. Microsoft is thinking along the same lines as Nintendo and its Wii U GamePad, but the potential of SmartGlass is limited only by the ambition of developers, while the GamePad is limited by the hardware. When Microsoft eventually releases its next generation console, you can be sure that SmartGlass will take its place right beside the new system.  


Qualcomm’s ‘Snapdragon 1000’ could bring octa-cores to Windows laptops

The rumored Qualcomm Snapdragon 1000 CPU may bring the octa-core design of mobiles and tablets to Windows laptops, offering four powerful cores for high performance, and four low-power cores for efficiency.

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.

Apple Mac users should take a bite out of these awesome games

Contrary to popular belief, there exists a bevy of popular A-list games compatible for Mac computers. Take a look at our picks for the best Mac games available for Apple fans.

Put your iPad Pro to the test with these great games

Did you recently purchase a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, or are you enjoying the 12.9-inch version? If so, we've rounded up a few of the best iPad Pro games currently available on Apple's mobile platform.
Home Theater

Don't wake the baby! How to connect headphones to a TV

Do you need to connect a pair of headphones to your TV? Our handy guide will show you how to hook up your headphones in a variety of ways, whether you're using wired headphones, wireless headphones, or gaming headsets.
Emerging Tech

Curious how A.I. 'brains' work? Here's a super-simple breakdown of deep learning

What is deep learning? A branch of machine learning, this field deals with the creation of neural networks that are modeled after the brain and adept at dealing with large amounts of human-oriented data, like writing and voice commands.

These gloves will make virtual reality feel even more immersive

Scientists from EPFL and ETH Zurich have come up with a thin and light VR glove which makes it so that a touch of an object in the virtual world equates to the physical touch you would expect in real life.

Is the new Surface Pro 6 worth the extra money or is the Surface Go good enough?

Each of Microsoft’s Surface devices are great, but with the recent addition of the Surface Pro 6, you might be wondering how it stacks up against the Surface Go. In this comparison piece, we’ve put the two devices up against each other…

Is the Surface Pro 6 a sidestep, or does it blow away its predecessor?

How good is the new Surface Pro, and is it worth an upgrade? The best way to find out is to pit the Surface Pro 6 vs. Surface Pro 5 in a head to head that tests them both on performance, design, and portability.
Emerging Tech

MIT is building a new $1 billion college dedicated to all things A.I.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced a new $1 billion college of computing designed to offer the best possible education to future machine learning A.I. experts.

Remove photo bombs, other unwanted objects with Photoshop’s new Content-Aware Fill

Photoshop's newest A.I-powered tool helps remove objects or fill in gaps for a distraction-free photo in the new Adobe Photoshop CC 2019. Here's how to remove an object in Photoshop using the new Content-Aware Fill.

Feed your fandom: These are the best YouTube channels for sports lovers

If you're a cable cutter who still wants to enjoy quality sports highlights and analysis, YouTube is the place to go. There are plenty of great sports-centric channels on YouTube, each of which provides great highlights and top-shelf…

Adobe Premiere Rush CC is the cloud-based video editing app you've been waiting for

On stage at Adobe MAX 2018, Adobe announced its cloud-centric, social video-editing application, Adobe Premiere Rush CC. We took some time to put it through its paces to see what it offers, how it works, and what's missing.
Social Media

YouTube is back after crashing for users around the world

It's rare to see YouTube suffer serious issues, but the site went down around the world for a period of time on October 16. It's back now, and we can confirm it's loading normally on desktop and mobile.