Uberflip is a Toronto-based creator of PDF editing software that enables more flexible and robust info-distribution. Their very business model depends on using the screens in our hands, and in front of our eyes, effectively. They recently compiled a report on how we use these screens; according to statistics by Google, the U.S. Census, and Nielsen, 97% of Americans own a TV, 112.4 million own a smartphone, and 81% of them use their phone and TV simultaneously.
That means at any one time, 91 million people are watching at least two screens at once. Or at least trying to.
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The numbers highlight the sheer necessity for future content producers to figure out how best to leverage this new reality. Joe Berkowitz at Fast Company points out one way in which those creating TV shows are factoring in these outside distractions, using them as a boon.
The biggest use of the second screen appears to be social networking, and watching TV, it’s easy enough to see networks strive to make the connection. Nearly every reality show has related hashtags flash by occasionally, encouraging viewers to weigh in on Twitter, which is the biggest driver of social TV, with 33% of users tweeting about it last June.
The connection to games is both obvious and not. In one way, the mere act of TV-watching has become more game-like, with each dramatic moment or surprising twist an occasion for our own interactive feedback. Instead of a Quick-Time Event prompting us to hit a button to escape, the omnipresent #hashtag goads us to share our reaction with the viewing public. Stephen Poole, in his column for EDGE magazine, wrote about smartphone's very interface as its own game.
The modern smartphone, then, has its own complex and rather arbitrary grammar, which must be learned before you can do anything with it, or feel comfortable using different devices – just as the modern console FPS has an evolved cybernetic grammar that enables the initiate to pick up a new one easily. [...] Actual videogames need to step up to rival the hypnotic experience of merely using a smartphone.
In much the same way, videogame consoles will need to provide more than a simple controller to interact with your game, because the TV already is one. Nintendo and Microsoft have both lobbed their ball into the court, with the Wii U GamePad acting as an integrated second-screen, whereas Microsoft's Smartglass app leaches off all those phones and tablets already in your hand. Sony is rumored to be including a touchscreen in their new PS4 controller, yet to be officially announced.
Whoever succeeds in finding the magic bullet for integrating all these shiny surfaces into one cohesive experience will have a whole lot of eyeballs watching them.