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Xbox 360 "SmartGlass" turns phone or tablet into second controller


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Internet Explorer coming to Xbox, even more Kinect integration on the way.

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Time to grow a third hand. Microsoft today announced "SmartGlass," a new technology for Xbox 360 that will turn your phone or tablet into another controller, allowing all sorts of new scenarios for video games and entertainment in general.

SmartGlass, unveiled at E3 today, isn't Windows-only, as it was promised for the iPhone, iPad, Android devices, and Windows phones and tablets. One demo showed how a tablet will add to the experience of playing Madden on Xbox, as you can use the touchscreen to diagram plays with your fingers. Another demo involving Halo showed the use of a tablet to modify the player's gun and manage the players in a multiplayer game.

We immediately imagined simultaneously manipulating a controller and phone or tablet, but the scenarios shown by Microsoft have players switching between the different inputs. Additionally, with Microsoft's Kinect you'll be controlling many more aspects of games with just your voice. Football legend Joe Montana came on stage to demonstrate calling plays and audibles in the huddle for an upcoming version of Madden with just his voice rather than a physical controller.

Beyond games, if you're watching a movie on your tablet and want to resume on a TV, SmartGlass would allow that too. It would also push sports stats and updates to you while you're watching a game.

Microsoft is pushing as many entertainment options into the Xbox 360 as possible, with new content deals, the arrival of Internet Explorer on the Xbox, and more and more use of the Kinect.

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Footage from a new South Park game was shown off during Microsoft's E3 keynote

A ton of new games were previewed, including one from the creators of South Park. No one summed up Microsoft's strategy better than South Park Co-Creator Trey Parker, who said, "How many times have you been watching an episode of South Park and thought, 'I'd like to be able to watch this on my television while hooked into my mobile device, which is being controlled by my tablet device, which is hooked into my oven, all while sitting in the refrigerator?' Well we're not doing that. We're just doing this game."

SmartGlass will be coming later this year, as will Internet Explorer for Xbox. While Bing already lets you search the Internet on the gaming console, this is the first time Microsoft's standard Web browser hits the Xbox. IE for Xbox will take advantage of Kinect and SmartGlass, letting users surf the Web on their big-screen TVs using both their voice and mobile devices.

Game controllers and TV remotes aren't great for the Web, and keyboards aren't meant for the living room, Xbox Live VP Marc Whitten said. That's why Microsoft wants both voice and touchscreen control for Internet Explorer on Xbox.

As expected, a new Xbox console was not announced today. As Microsoft has been saying all along, the Xbox 360 has plenty of life left into it. But the technologies being introduced for the 360 today—including a new Xbox Music service with 30 million tracks—will help both the 360 and its eventual successor be the central hub of millions of living rooms.

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