E3 2012: Year of the second screen with Xbox Smart Glass and Wii U

As E3 coverage kicks off, we get a glimpse of what the Wii U GamePad can do and the social focus of Miiverse. Microsoft raises a challenge to Apple with its Smart Glass technology and new Kinect features.

Get ready to get your game on. E3 has begun:

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The Electronic Entertainment Expo, called E3 for short, has kicked off. It's the big video game conference of the year, and even though the show has just begun, it looks like this is the year of the second screen. Both the Wii U and the Xbox 360 are showing off ways to tie tablet screen interaction with what's on the television, creating a richer game and entertainment experience. You can catch all our continuing coverage of the show at cnet.com/e3.

Nintendo's press conference isn't until Tuesday, but it teased with a brief look at the updates it made to the Wii U system and the GamePad controller. Nintendo added an NFC (near-field communications) reader to the GamePad to allow for game interaction with real-world objects. If you thought Skylanders was cool, this would be the next evolution of that concept. The GamePad can also work as a TV remote control and it pushes content to display on the television screen.

Social is the big focus around the Wii U. Players will be more interactive as part of the Miiverse. See what friends -- or people in your community -- are saying about a game. Use a chat room to ask for help with defeating a game or just share your comments. But it's not just typing; use a stylus to write and draw comments.

Nintendo is also showing that it's targeting more serious gamers as well with a new controller, the Wii U Pro. There's no screen, and it looks quite a bit like an Xbox 360 controller. This is Nintendo's answer to critics, showing it can be a system for hardcore gamers. Expect a look at game play examples at Nintendo's press conference on Tuesday.

Microsoft unleashed this second-screen concept in full force with a feature it calls Smart Glass . Using a tablet (Windows, iOS or Android), users can interact with games in new ways. How about use a tablet app to design your own passing play in Madden, and see it instantly become an option on screen. Smart Glass can work with television shows; watch Game of Thrones on HBO Go and your tablet app will display extra info about the show, like a map about where the scene is taking place.

Smart Glass will also let you start watching a video through a portable device, and continue it through the Xbox. These features will launch sometime this fall.

There were plenty of teases to new games, like Halo 4 , a re-launching of Tomb Raider, and a South Park game. Microsoft also showed off new features for the Kinect motion sensor. There will be a workout program called Nike+ Kinect Training. Also, shout out calls for plays or use voice commands to snap the ball in the next Madden game . Kinect can turn your television into a smart TV, allowing viewers to speak commands to navigate menus and browse the web .

Microsoft is really throwing down with Apple . Now the big question is if Apple can create a television product that can compete. Be sure to catch tomorrow's show for highlights from Sony and Nintendo press conferences.

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