Xbox One SmartGlass: What’s New and What’s Different

Xbox SmartGlass turns your smartphone, tablet or laptop into the perfect companion to your Xbox for unique second screen experiences. There are great SmartGlass companions for Xbox 360 today and we’re hearing that you want to know more about the next generation of SmartGlass and Xbox One. We caught up with Xbox Live General Manager Ron Pessner, who leads the engineering team developing the new SmartGlass, to talk about how it unlocks a multitude of activities for Xbox One. Here’s what Ron had to say about the experiences he and his team of engineers and interface and design gurus have built, based on the great feedback from customers.

Xbox Wire: What is SmartGlass?
Ron Pessner: Fundamentally, it’s a free downloadable companion application that extends your Xbox game and entertainment experiences to your smart devices. With SmartGlass for Xbox One you can use your phone, laptop or tablet as a remote to easily navigate the web on your console, turn up the volume on your TV, and select a video, music or game to play. SmartGlass is more than just controlling your TV content though. We are working with all of our game and entertainment partners to build really cool experiences that take advantage of the fact that you have smart devices connected to your Xbox One.

XW: How do you get Xbox One SmartGlass?
RP: The free Xbox One SmartGlass app is separate from the Xbox 360 app. The Xbox One SmartGlass app will be available for download this holiday on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, iOS and Android devices.

XW: What can gamers expect from SmartGlass for Xbox One?
RP: SmartGlass is maturing with the evolution of Xbox 360 to Xbox One. Xbox One was designed from the ground up with SmartGlass in mind, and an immediately noticeable difference with Xbox One SmartGlass compared to Xbox 360 SmartGlass is the connection speed and performance. On average it only takes about four seconds for SmartGlass to recognize your Xbox One and create an instant connection. Of course, this is based on the speed of your wireless connection, but generally SmartGlass is about three-and-a-half times faster on Xbox One than its Xbox 360 predecessor. And that’s just for your first connection, once you’re synced up, re-connecting will happen even faster.

A core feature that was super important for us is that gamers can use SmartGlass for matchmaking on Xbox One. If you’re in the middle of game on your console, you can begin matchmaking for a multiplayer session through SmartGlass and you won’t interrupt your action on the big screen.

We’ve also expanded the number of devices that you can connect simultaneously to Xbox One. You can now have up to 16 SmartGlass devices working with an Xbox One so there are more people connecting to a game experience—that’s four times as many as Xbox 360. An interesting implementation of this would be playing poker with friends or maybe an MMORPG where there can be lots of hands in the pot. We’re excited to see where developers will take this and the new gaming experiences they’ll create by tying together more devices than before.

XW: How are you making SmartGlass faster on Xbox One than Xbox 360?
RP: With Xbox 360, SmartGlass had to talk to a datacenter that could be halfway around the world, and the datacenter then relayed commands to your Xbox. That connection from your SmartGlass device to a datacenter and then to your Xbox required extra time to execute. Now, SmartGlass talks directly to your Xbox One over your Wi-Fi or LAN network.

XW: Which Xbox One games have SmartGlass companions?
RP: So far, we’ve revealed some of the games with SmartGlass that will launch with Xbox One such as “Dead Rising 3” and “Project Spark.” The “Dead Rising 3” SmartGlass companion turns your phone into an extension of the game world. SmartGlass becomes the phone in the game and opens up lines for you to interact with characters during gameplay—it’s a cool bonus just for SmartGlass users but it’s not necessary to complete the game. Also with “Dead Rising 3,” SmartGlass can start a new mission or find hidden in-game items and locations. In addition, by completing exclusive missions, gamers can earn special rewards, like an airstrike that they can call in with SmartGlass to clear an escape path if they’re stuck in a zombie horde.

XW: What is Game Help and how are developers utilizing it for Xbox One games?
RP: If you’re having trouble in a game, you can tap a Help button in SmartGlass that will give you contextually aware information for whatever you’re playing. We’re working closely with developers today to add game help to individual Xbox One titles. This is done by game creators making a help manual that we then host in SmartGlass. During gameplay, SmartGlass follows your progress and knows exactly where you’re at and where you’re having trouble, so that when you hit the Help button you’ll be given the tips you need. It’s a really cool additive experience to your gameplay and a way for developers to use additional screens to enhance the experience of playing games on Xbox One.

XW: Can I play a game on Xbox One using SmartGlass like a controller?
RP: We’re seeing developers come up with creative ways to use SmartGlass for new modes of game play. Compared to Xbox 360, we’ve greatly improved the performance and decreased latencies between the console and your SmartGlass device. Because of this, we’re seeing scenarios where SmartGlass can be used for methods of game control with Xbox One. Additionally, because Xbox One is built on the same foundations as Windows 8, we’ve taken all the work that’s been done discovering how touch behaves in Windows 8 and naturally extended it for SmartGlass scenarios. This results in a much better experience when using SmartGlass as a controller. But it has to be the right fit for the right game to use SmartGlass as a dedicated controller. You can imagine the possibilities where a personal second screen would be really valuable, like play-calling in a football game.

XW: How can gamers use SmartGlass when they’re away from their Xbox One?
RP: SmartGlass is your Xbox One dashboard when you’re away from your console and keeps you in touch with your Xbox One games and community. In addition to staying connected to your friends, sending and receiving messages, and checking all your Achievements, SmartGlass will show your friends’ activity and let you look at the games they’re playing. From there, you can pin those games in SmartGlass and those pins will appear on your Xbox One the next time you’re connected to Xbox Live. We’re making it easier to find new games by adding the ability to search the entire Xbox Games Store within SmartGlass. And we’re adding a promoted games section that delivers titles specific to your tastes based on your gaming history.

XW: How does SmartGlass connect you with your Xbox Live friends?
RP: SmartGlass serves up game details pages that let you get competitive in a new way by showing you your friends’ progress relative to your own if you’re playing the same game. You can compare your Achievements and Challenges and other stats that developers deem relevant to their game. You can send and receive messages with your Xbox Live friends so you can talk trash or send congrats on their recent wins. You’ll also have access to Game DVR clips that you and your friends create.

XW: How does SmartGlass interact with TV on Xbox One?
RP: You can do a lot with SmartGlass when you’re watching TV on your Xbox One. You can change channels on your cable or satellite set-top box and even control the volume of your television. When you hit volume up on your SmartGlass device, for example, it tells your Xbox One console to send the volume up command through IR blasting from Kinect directly to your TV. Xbox One integrates all your entertainment into an easy to navigate OneGuide—a single destination for seeing what’s on TV, your favorite channels and even programs that you watch in your favorite streaming apps. You can either navigate the OneGuide on the TV, or you can access it on your smartphone, tablet or laptop with SmartGlass. So when you’re fighting over the remote or what to watch next, use SmartGlass to see what’s on and what to watch without interrupting what’s happening on the TV or to go ahead and change the channel if the remote is nowhere to be found.

Stay tuned for more on how Xbox One SmartGlass will work with games and entertainment on Xbox One.

*final user interface subject to change