HBO has created a prototype of an interactive app for its Game of Thrones fantasy series using Microsoft's SmartGlass technologies to let users watching HBO Go on the Xbox 360 control the video and access supplemental show content using smartphones or tablets.
Microsoft and HBO executives staged a demo of the SmartGlass app here at the 2nd Screen Summit NYC, presented by Multichannel News, B&C, TWICE and the Media Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA).
"It is our job on the digital side to think about engaging consumers on every digital touch-point we have," said Alison Moore, HBO's senior vice president of digital products.
SmartGlass -- which Microsoft announced earlier this month at the E3 conference in Los Angeles -- is a collection of apps, embedded technologies and services designed to let mobile devices interact with and enhance TV content. The HBO demo used a Windows 8-based Surface slate, which Microsoft unveiled last week, a Windows phone and an Xbox. HBO began offering access to HBO Go on Xbox, through participating affiliates, in March.
The SmartGlass app for Game of Thrones provides a range of features, including letting a viewer skip ahead or back in the episode using the slate; providing a visual guide to the houses, characters in the show; and displaying an interactive map that automatically shifts to the locations to sync up with the scene in the episode playing on TV.
HBO first started providing "DVD-like" extras with Season 1 of Game of Thrones last year on HBOGo.com, and added a tablet app with enhanced content with Season 2.
"We were experimenting to see if this was going to be too much white noise," Moore said. "It wasn't."
Digital platforms like HBO Go let the premium programmer provide fresh ways for consumers to interact with, discover and "rediscover" new content, Moore said. The goal is to provide more content to deepen engagement with a show while it's in the broadcast window, and between seasons to "remind people about their connections with the show," she said.
Ron Pessner, partner and group program manager in Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business unit, indicated that Microsoft will extend SmartGlass to Android and Apple iOS devices, in addition to Windows 8 smartphones and tablets.
"We can't be locked into just Microsoft devices," he said.
SmartGlass uses a Web development model based on HTML5, which lets partners create apps once for multiple device types, Pessner said.
Microsoft has created Xbox game demos that use SmartGlass. Those include a karaoke game, which lets users search for and queue up songs on a SmartGlass device, and a pitching-duel game, Homerun King, which lets a second player interact with the game (to select a pitch, for example) while another player is up "at bat."