After unveiling a new YouTube Mobile site yesterday morning, YouTube went on to launch its new couch viewing interface, LeanBack. First shown off at Google’s I/O conference in May, LeanBack is a dramatically simplified interface for browsing YouTube content, as well as having content pushed to you like a traditional TV channel.
The instant you hit the LeanBack page, a personalized selection of videos begins playing. YouTube calls the selection your “feed”, and it’s based on the YouTube videos you’ve watched and your subscriptions. You can also watch popular videos from categories like news and entertainment, and if you connect your Facebook account, you’ll also get a glimpse of what your friends are watching in your feed.
The entire LeanBack interface is based around the arrow keys on your keyboard — which makes sense since the same interface will be included on Google TV when it launches this fall. By limiting inputs to a few keys, YouTube is basically declaring that LeanBack is meant for TV remotes more than it is for keyboards. “You won’t need your mouse for this experience,” YouTube senior product manager Kuan Yong writes — in fact, you can’t even use your mouse with LeanBack.
In this case, input simplicity is key to the LeanBack experience. Browsing through videos is a snap with left and right arrows; pressing the up arrow reveals a search box, which instantly turns any search into a new channel; and pressing down gives you access to other content channels.
Videos are also displayed at the highest quality possible. So if you’re browsing through a channel filled with high-definition content on your television, content will look good by default. It will also eventually offer access to your YouTube rentals.
LeanBack is clearly an evolution of YouTube XL, the company’s previous attempt at a large format interface.
You can watch a demonstration of LeanBack’s features in the video below: