When we think of second screen app executions, television shows are generally the first types that come to mind. While not as common as TV versions, movies have been making strides into the companion viewing market for just as long led by a line-up of apps by Disney, such as Tron Legacy and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as other studio executions like Prometheus from Fox. While second screen companion viewing apps have been primarily focused on viewing at home, Disney is looking to change that with their recent theater re-release of The Little Mermaid where they encouraged fans to bring their iPads to the showing for a dual-screen experience. The digital projection systems at modern multiplexes are set-up on internet enabled servers, so it is possible for film second screen executions at the theater to easily evolve into one where audience interactions could dictate outcomes on the screen (I explore more on that topic in this article).
When I learned one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters, Iron Man 3, was going to have its own second screen experience application for the Blu-Ray release I couldn’t wait to try it out. The app has been heavily promoted online and even received prominent exposure on an insert card located inside the Blu-Ray case. So how did it perform?
Let’s examine it under the lens of four key criteria for second screen experiences: Control, Discovery, Sharing, and Enhancement.
Control: Put away that Blu-Ray player remote because controlling the Iron Man 3 action is what this app does best – your player and your mobile device must both be connected to the same internet network. The app features a single screen which looks like a basic remote control panel done in J.A.R.V.I.S. styling, of course. While many of the Blu-Ray movie based second screen apps offer control functionality, this one pushes the envelope a little bit further as only a “Just a Rather Very Intelligent System” can do: voice commands. That’s right, the Iron Man 3 second screen experience is built with a listening mode allowing the viewer to control not only movie navigation, but other areas of the app as well. App and Blu-Ray sync was seamless and functioned quite nicely, even the voice commands were responsive although they did have a minor delay in processing from the microphone, which is to be expected.
Discovery: To help encourage on-disc exploration, the app features a gallery of all 42 Iron Man Mark suits which are not visible after the initial download. In the Blu-Ray menus, there is a section where viewers can watch a short introduction about how the computer systems were taken offline due to the attack at the Stark home and security protocols must be met before J.A.R.V.I.S. will grant you armor access. The viewer learns that hidden around the Blu-Ray menus are a series of digital codes that must be scanned using the app, similar to an augmented reality tracking marker. The codes are scattered throughout so it does provide some incentive for exploring the bonus features and extras on the disc.
Once scanned, additional lots of Mark Suits are available in the Hall of Armors gallery and can be downloaded as mobile desktop images. Not all users will take the time to explore the menus looking for the codes, especially since the payoff is only an image of the suit. A more interactive and expanded content reward would likely encourage more users to participate. If you’re having trouble finding them and want to unlock all of the suits without the need of AR codes, just give J.A.R.V.I.S. a voice command for “Roll Call”.
Sharing: Little is done in the app to encourage social interaction. There are no social feeds or ability to share any content from the app using native app functions – you can save the unlocked armor images to your device gallery and share them from other apps. The only social integration is a Facebook posting ability, but even then it works like a regular FB post and does nothing to indicate it originated from the Iron Man app. Greater social integration is an area that needs improvement as it is almost non-existent today.
Enhancement: When the term second screen experience is used, we are now conditioned to think that some form of synced additional content will be available. Having previously watched the film in the theater, enjoying it alongside an interesting and engaging second screen content environment was something I was very much looking forward to with the Blu-Ray release. I had my controls synced, the movie was playing, and I kept looking down at my phone…nothing. 10 minutes later, 20 minutes…still nothing. Turns out, the dual screen part of the “Iron Man 3 – JARVIS: A Second Screen Experience” is limited only to the navigation controls. There is no synced – or even unsynced – content experience with this app. Disappointed? Yes.
The app does provide a fun J.A.R.V.I.S. stylized experience, but it is completely independent of needing the film to enjoy. You can customize J.A.R.V.I.S. to give you calendar alerts, alarms, the weather, and even a set of ringtones, all voiced by actor Paul Bettany (same actor from the films). For fun, you should tap the main circular command screen interface multiple times in a row, which will fluster J.A.R.V.I.S. to the point where he gets rather angry and retaliates.
Despite the attractiveness of the app, the few minutes of fun playing with the J.A.R.V.I.S. features, and setting up the ringtones, the J.A.R.V.I.S. Iron Man 3 Second Screen Experience is really anything but a dual-screen experience. Sure the control features are nice to have and one key criteria for a second screen experience, but anyone expecting an actual enhanced interactive environment to enjoy while watching an incredibly fun film will be very disappointed. I know I was.
[All images were personally screen-grabbed from the iPhone app & photographed.]