Smart TVs share some characteristics with smartphones — a reliance on apps and constant Internet connectivity, for example — but otherwise they’re still pretty dumb.
Pixie, a new Smart TV app emerging today from Samsung’s Accelerator in New York City, could finally give your TV some brains. It lets you bring streams of news, social media updates, and other web content alongside what you’re watching on TV.
You can think of Pixie like a fully customizable on-screen news ticker, similar to what you see on MSNBC or ESPN. It delivers short updates that appear right under your TV shows, and you can also click on those updates for more details (including larger photos from its Instagram app and full articles from news sites).
The goal? To put more content that you want to see right on your TV so you don’t have to juggle a smartphone or tablet. Pixie seems ideal for those times when you want to veg on your couch but still want to stay up to date with the latest news. It currently supports 10 “cards” (mini-apps), including Twitter, Facebook, ESPN, CNN, and Rotten Tomatoes.
Kai Bond, Pixie’s founder and CEO, joined the Samsung Accelerator a year ago with the basic idea for Pixie. Coming off of a string of mobile and gaming companies, he wanted to develop a new kind of Smart TV app. And, as Bond explains, he chose to set up shop at Samsung’s Accelerator because it provides funds and support for innovative new ideas, and it also gave him the freedom to focus entirely on the product.
Samsung owns the IP of startups coming out of its accelerator, and, if successful, they can also be spun out as separate companies. Pixie is one of the first products to emerge from Samsung’s new startup shop.
Pixie is available free today on Samsung’s Smart TV app store, and it could easily be ported to other TV platforms, Bond tells me.
Pixie has already scored a content deal with CBS for its Fantasy Football apps, allowing football fans to track their team’s performance in real time during games. Pixie ended up seeing around 35 hours of usage per month from each of those fans, which is a clear sign the company is on to something. Pixie is web-based, so it’s fairly simple for companies to whip up a custom card that takes advantage of their data feeds.
There’s also the potential for more than just displaying data — companies can implement ads within their Pixie feeds, for example. Bond also demonstrated a prototype feature that can bring up trivia automatically from Rotten Tomatoes are you’re watching a movie.
When asked if he felt that Pixie might have been better off as a standalone startup, one that he completely owned and controlled, Bond didn’t seem too concerned. “I want millions of people using my app. At the end of the day, what you care about most is having happy users,” he said. He’s also been through startups in the past that didn’t leave him with much when they fell apart.
The Smart TV landscape today is more akin to the pre-touchscreen days of the mobile industry, when BlackBerry ruled and Windows Mobile devices seemed innovative. We can see the potential in connected and powerful televisions, but aside from apps that point us to services like Netflix and Hulu, most of that potential remains untapped.
Pixie could be the first in a new wave of Smart TV apps that finally takes advantage of connectivity and contextual relevance to enhance your viewing experience rather than just replacing it.