Announced last year at E3 and released alongside Windows 8 last fall, Xbox SmartGlass enables second-screen experiences for select Xbox 360 content on Windows, Android, and iOS devices. One of the coolest examples of this technology is Xbox Video, which allows you to do everything from discover which actors are currently on screen to watch behind-the-scenes content and track in-universe information like where characters might be on a map.
But while the technology is excellent, SmartGlass for Xbox Video is a little hard to use. The first reason for this is that SmartGlass often isn’t supported for movie rentals, so you’ll need to buy the entire film – something I rarely do – if you want the second-screen experience. This makes it difficult to actually use the technology in most cases. Although to be fair, making SmartGlass exclusive to purchases is equivalent to the special features you’d receive on a Blu-ray or DVD. The other issue is discoverability. SmartGlass connectivity is sometimes noted in the description, but not consistently. On Xbox, it can be somewhat difficult to find SmartGlass-enabled content on Xbox Video. Thankfully, it’s a little easier on Windows 8.
The Xbox Video app on Windows 8 and Windows RT is split up into four horizontal sections: my videos, spotlight, movies store, and television store. With the exception of my videos, each section is devoted to highlighting what’s available on the service, from new releases and sales to special collections (denoted with a “>” icon next to the name). Most of the featured content changes on a daily basis. But what you might not have noticed, however, is that the movies and television sections each contain two static tiles. The first is an add for Xbox, while the second is a dedicated list of SmartGlass content.
This might seem fairly obvious and discoverable, but in talking with fellow Xbox and Windows 8 users recently, I was surprised by how many people weren’t aware of this feature. From a certain point of view, the need to dedicate one of these featured tiles to SmartGlass highlights a UI design flaw. One would think that you’d be able to search and sort content based on filters, but that is not the case. Still, it’s handy to have an easy way to find SmartGlass-enabled content on Xbox Video.