If you start counting from the Magnavox Odyssey, we've been playing console games for seven generations now. Yes, it's crazy to think of, but it's even more alarming to realize that the industry has been in an all-out "war" since generation three. For better or worse, competition became a part of the hardware cycle. The players (you know, Sega, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft) have changed several times through the years, but until recently, the game hasn't -- the console wars were fought over who had more bits, what had the most RAM and how fast a machine could render frames. Now, as we kick off generation eight, we're seeing a very different kind of contest.
We're not saying that hardware specifications don't matter -- they absolutely do -- but this time, the two leading armies are packing painfully similar heat. On paper, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 really aren't that different. So, what's going to win the war? Software, services and brand.
After its slow but steady implementation of companion features in its mobile and web services, ESPN is ready to go live with its first dedicated second screen sports app. With its ESPN Sync, the broadcaster will focus first on its Spanish-language channel, ESPN Desportes, delivering real-time news, sports scores and interactive live videos for major sporting events. The company has trialled all manner of real-time features in the past -- from tickers, to fly-bys and other additional goodies -- but ESPN Sync is the first to tie them all together. It's chosen a great time to launch too: the app will debut just in time to distract you during the Mayweather vs. Canelo fight on September 14th. ESPN's new web platform will also play host to more than 60 events over the next year, streaming games from the MLB World Series, NFL Playoffs, NBA Finals and
football soccer matches from the world's biggest leagues. ESPN Sync is available on iOS, Android and desktop devices, but be warned -- you'll only get the most out of it if you know your fuera de juego from your contraataque.
Source: ESPN Sync
We all know the drill by now, and if you forget there's usually a warning: please turn your mobile devices off / silent, the movie is starting. For a special Second Screen Live showing of Disney's The Little Mermaid however, it's going to be different as moviegoers are encouraged to use their tablets for an augmented experience. Disney has created an iPad app for viewers to download before they get to the theater, which mirrors apps we've seen for home viewing with synchronized games, sing-a-longs and trivia. That's no coincidence, since the movie's return to theaters is timed ahead of its Blu-ray release on October 1st.
Viewers shouldn't worry about this encroaching on their Oscar-season previews however, as it's limited to a monthlong run at the El Capitan in LA starting on the 15th, and limited showings at select other theaters (listed after the break) nationwide starting on the 20th. This is Disney's first public use of the tech after a trial run last fall alongside Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, which had a response it described as "positive." For a family movie likely loaded with kids we can see where this might be more enhancement than distraction and maybe even for certain niche midnight screening-type environments -- but if anyone whips out a slate at Machete Kills, Her, 12 Years A Slave or Gravity we're calling the usher.
Shazam's Android app has needed a makeover for a while; even with tablet support, the sound identification tool has felt more at home in 2011 than 2013. The company is delivering that overdue redesign today with the launch of Shazam 4.0. The new app gives Android users a modern, Holo-inspired interface that scales to all Android devices, including a wider variety of tablets. It also brings the iOS version's faster sound scans and more dynamic listening screen. While there aren't many other changes, there's more than enough here to justify grabbing the update through Google Play.
Source: Google Play
Twitter has already signaled its love of TV by negotiating deals for branded video, but it's not satisfied yet: the company has started limited testing of a timeline box for trending TV shows. The feature provides both the details of a given show as well as a list of associated Twitter accounts. Thankfully, the box isn't a permanent fixture; while it will appear on its own, users can close and scroll past the box to return to their personal feeds. The company isn't commenting on the test or the likelihood of a wider rollout, but the popularity of Twitter as a live TV companion suggests that the trending TV box could be here to stay.
It's time to add another entry on our "Apple television rumors" timeline, as reports tonight indicate the company has acquired the team behind the second screen web / iPad app Matcha.tv. VentureBeat initially posted news of the acquisition at a price of between $1 and $1.5 million, which would appear to explain the aggregator's sudden disappearance back in May. If you weren't familiar with it before now, Matcha.tv was one of a number of efforts seeking to enable content discovery from mobile devices. By the time it closed its doors, it included TV listings of what's on cable / satellite, queues for online streaming from services like Netflix and Hulu, personalized recommendations and social network tie-ins. CEO Guy Piekarz told TechCrunch in May that the company has a "plan to provide something better in the future." We'll wait and see if speculation leans towards an IR blaster tie-in for the iPhone similar to the Galaxy S 4 and HTC One, controls for an integrated living room TV experience or something else entirely.
Second screen experiences on mobile devices are nothing new -- just ask many TV viewers -- but two-way interaction is frequently limited to completely in-house efforts like SmartGlass. Microsoft wants that kind of integration to spread, so it's teaming up with Polar on a web app that demonstrates the Companion Web, where pages on one device control and complement pages on another. Polar's app lets viewers register their opinions of a TV show from their phones, and watch as a matching site on their tablet or TV reflects both the vote and the page position. The Companion Web demo isn't as elaborate as experiments like Google's Map Dive, but it does show that browsers don't have to be novelties in the living room -- especially once features like the Xbox One's Snap Mode come into play.
Via: Exploring IE
Zeebox is clearly busy these days. It just added automatic show syncing and recommendations to its second screen app a few days ago, and it's back with a new developer portal that opens the Zeebox APIs to everyone, not just partners. Those building mobile and web apps can now integrate Zeebox's guides, social networking and tagging into their projects, as well as create synchronized widgets for Zeebox's own release. If you're inclined to build on the company's TV experience, it's free to try the programming tools you'll find at the source link.