Games consoles bring second screens to your TV

All three games console manufacturers have announced plans to bring "second screens" to your TV, augmenting video games, films and TV programmes with extra information on a tablet or smartphone.

Yesterday at E3, the video game industry trade show, Microsoft revealed Xbox SmartGlass, an app for Windows, iOS and Android devices that automatically connects to an Xbox 360. Start watching a film on your tablet and you can transfer it to your console to watch on your big TV, picking up where you left off.

The tablet can then display information related to the on-screen action, such as an interactive map accompanying the TV show Game of Thrones. SmartGlass also turns your touchscreen into a second controller for games such as Halo 4 or Madden, allowing you to access extra menus or plan out your football team`s strategy.

It`s remarkably similar to Nintendo`s plans for its new console, the Wii U, which features a tablet-inspired controller. On Sunday Nintendo showed off Miiverse, a social network that will allow players to send each other messages from the controller: CEO Satoru Iwata dubbed it a "social window" connecting from living room to living room. The controller now also has an infrared port, letting you use it as universal TV remote and display TV guides on-screen.

Meanwhile, Sony has increased the links between the PlayStation 3 and its portable younger brother, the PlayStation Vita. The company announced yesterday that gamers will be able to use the Vita as a controller for PS3 games such as PlayStation All-Stars and LittleBigPlanet 2, bringing touch controls to your big-TV games.

So whether it is on a standalone tablet, a dedicated controller or a separate portable system, second screens seem to be the big trend at E3 this year. But having splashed out on an expensive HDTV, will gamers really want to spend time staring at a poxy display in their lap?

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