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Microsoft XBox: More Than a Gaming Console

Even when I have fun, I am still an analyst.  During Memorial Day weekend I attended Phoenix Comicon.  This convention has been growing every year and has a wide variety of tracks for all interests and genres.  I decided to check out the Microsoft XBox Panel.

The XBox panel was run by a Microsoft employee who is on the Xbox Live team. This was a free and open discussion with the audience about the latest developments with XBox and provided the speaker with customer feedback.  Several details about XBox One could not be answered.  More information will come out at the E3 show this June.

The presenter for Microsoft emphasized that the XBox services take the XBox beyond the console.  This includes XBox Music, XBox Video and XBox SmartGlass.  The platform is evolving into delivering entertainment services not just games.  Microsoft is also working to bring the power of the cloud to XBox One.

Particular attention was given to SmartGlass.  This is a companion application for both XBox 360 and XBox One.  It can be downloaded to any portable device with Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS, Android (version 4.0 and higher) and Windows Server 2012.  It was announced at E3 2012 and released in October 2012.  According to the Microsoft spokesperson, SmartGlass is a growth area.

SmartGlass enables a smartphone, tablet or Ultrabook PC to act as a second screen.  This is a growing trend for TV watching and also gaming.  Users have another device for additional information and/or interaction.  According to the Microsoft spokesperson, 70% of consumers in the US already use a second screen.  It seems to me that this may be the number of households and would include people using a PC not connected to a TV or other device in order to check sport statistics or information on  Nevertheless, SmartGlass is addressing a growing trend.

SmartGlass is a development platform for game developers.  It is written in HTML 5.  Depending on the goal of the developers, SmartGlass can be passive or active.  It can provide information about the game to the user via the second screen.  It can also accept inputs via the second screen.  According to Microsoft’s XBox website, one can use gesture navigation by using swipe and tap gestures.  The second screen can function like a remote control.

I asked that since SmartGlass can use the second screen for input, can it also use the data from the motion sensors to track the user’s actions in 3D space for game play or other applications?  Unfortunately, SmartGlass does not support the use of motion sensors.

Microsoft and game developers are working on improving SmartGlass.  Microsoft is providing the SDK (software development kit) and is looking to use the cloud.  This enables the system to have more contextual awareness of the user’s actions.  The goal is for future games to be more immersive through the use of SmartGlass.

Semico Spin

Microsoft is offering more than gaming with its XBox platform.  XBox One will bring more innovations.  SmartGlass has huge potential for changing nor only gaming but also user interaction with entertainment.  I was surprised about the lack of support for motion sensors.  Grant it, SmartGlass was likely being developed for several years before its release in October 2012.  Sensor fusion in smartphones at the time was still low penetration and tablets had yet to emerge.  Nevertheless, Windows 8 specifies explicitly for smartphones, tablets and convertible Ultrabooks, that the device must have at least a 9-axis degree of freedom sensor fusion solution.  It would seem then that Microsoft should be working on the next version of SmartGlass with support for motion sensors.  If the goal is to offer the consumer a more immersive experience, then the data from the sensor fusion of the second screen needs to be supported in SmartGlass.

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