The portable tablet, still exploring its role as a content viewer alongside personal computers, is getting another part to play: controller and “second screen” for the living room.
Microsoft and Nintendo both showed off their versions of the second screen at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this week. The solutions both connect wirelessly to game systems but use different approaches.
Microsoft demonstrated software that runs on iPads, iPhones, Android devices, and Xbox 360. Called SmartGlass, it can control games or devices and also display additional content from video. Microsoft’s demonstration showed a map of Westeros on a tablet while the television played Game of Thrones, plotting the characters’ movements within the fictional setting. It can also be used to stream content on one device and pick up where the viewer leaves off on another device.
For gaming, SmartGlass enables players to make moves and devise strategies without opponents seeing. The latest Madden football game was shown in Microsoft’s demo, with the tablet used to select various plays as the team’s coach. A new game called Ascend displays character stats on the second screen.
Nintendo, meanwhile, previewed the successor to its Wii system, called the Wii U. Rather than working with consumer tablets, the Wii U comes with a large controller that merges a touchscreen with two analog joysticks, a D-pad, A, B, X, and Y buttons, and a couple other controls.
The Gamepad, as the controller is called, can act as a home theater remote when the Wii U is playing content from the likes of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon Video. The screen can also display additional information for each player during a game and take touch input.
Both SmartGlass and the Wii U will be available in late 2012.
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