#qplay

Harry McCracken:

Like their previous collaboration, Qplay involves a box that plugs into a TV — a tiny $49 box this time, looking a bit like a skinny USB hard drive — and a service that helps you find stuff to watch. But instead of tapping broadcast TV, Qplay sifts through free videos available on the Internet, using social cues to find specific videos. And rather than giving you anything akin to TiVo’s iconic, peanut-shaped remote control, it lets you control your experience using an iPad app. You can watch videos on either the TV or the tablet.

Qplay aims to provide you with videos of interest without ever forcing you to hunt down a specific video. It organizes them into something it calls a Q — a continuous stream of items on a particular theme, which it strings together no matter where it found them. As Flipboard does with text content, Qplay gets some of these feeds by scanning Twitter accounts: For instance, there’s a Q made up of all the videos The Verge has tweeted, presumably making for good watching for tech enthusiasts. As you watch videos and tap the Like icon, the app uses that feedback to help it refine what it shows you.

To say a lot of folks have tried (and failed) to nail this experience would be an understatement. But I do believe they keep trying because there is something there. It’s no longer that the web lacks good video content — there is now plenty go great content — but the presentation still lags far behind the lean-back experience of television. So I think Qplay is aiming in the right direction.

Having to constantly think about what you want to watch next in all but the most lightweight way (changing the channel) in a non-starter. As is using your entire tablet screen to show content, meaning you can’t do anything else. The river of curated content streamed to your television seems like the right approach as long as the curation is truly excellent. In a way, HBO is simply the best curator in the world right now. The question is when that world changes.