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Microsoft program manager says SmartGlass is a 'first-class input device'

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At a GDC 2013 panel today, Rosa Thomas, principal program manager at Microsoft, explained how to use Microsoft's SmartGlass technology as a "first-class input device."

SmartGlass represents Microsoft's desire "to focus on the living room, on the main screen connected to an Xbox" and deliver "extra entertainment" through a second screen, Thomas said. Its applications range from simple functionality like controlling a movie's playback to adding features like tying IMDB entries and extra content into the SmartGlass application.

Microsoft sees SmartGlass as "first-class input device," she said, highlighting the ability to enter text on Xbox with a paired SmartGlass device.

SmartGlass' most common use case allows users to connect to and control their Xbox 360 with the SmartGlass app on smartphones and tablets. Using Microsoft's cloud services and Wi-Fi or a cellular network, SmartGlass's back end allows two-way communication between devices.

"SmartGlass also allows you to have a disconnected experience, even when your Xbox is off," she said.

SmartGlass on smartphones, tablets and Windows, with or without an Xbox.

As a practical demonstration, Thomas played a simple game of poker on two Windows Phone devices. Her moves on each device — playing hands, making bets — were uploaded into the cloud and pushed down to other devices.

Phillip Profitt from the Microsoft advanced technology group, Japan, showed off a native Xbox 360 SmartGlass experience using Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. SmartGlass' second screen makes some things possible on the device that are impractical on the Xbox 360, he said. For example, the game's SmartGlass app will keep track of progress toward Achievements that would otherwise need to be buried in menus. The game's "Katana Master" Achievement tasks players with killing 1,000 enemies. The SmartGlass app counts up the number of kills in real time.

The app also connects to YouTube to find videos that can help players pass particularly difficult sections like boss battles.

The technology works on Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS and Android. Apps run within an embedded browser inside of the SmartGlass application, which uses HTML5 and JavaScript to more easily enable cross-platform functionality.

To see SmartGlass in action, you can watch a recent Microsoft video that shows the technology working with Signal Studios' upcoming Ascend: New Gods.