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Hackers search for new tools to experience TV
February 10, 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO: A two-day code-hacking competition at Apps World North America 2013 ended on recently after about 100 developers battled to come up with apps to disrupt and enrich our TV-viewing experience. The result was some, well, must-see television apps.

The winner of “Best Overall Hack”: Augmented Reality Gamification TV, which allows viewers to interact with what’s on their TV screen, using virtual-reality magic tricks to “embed” objects right into the video.

“It’s all about in-content discovery,” said Dan Reitan, CEO of Mountain View-based ReinCloud and one of the hackers behind the winning app. “You’ll be watching, say, Don Draper on ‘Mad Men’ and be able to not just click on a bottle of gin, but

use your phone to order a case of it.” The hackdown was part of the brave new world of television unfolding at Apps World, an exp originally from Great Britain but being staged in San Francisco this year for the first time. And it drew some wild ideas from hackers from here and beyond.

Evelio Tarazona, a 25-year-old hacker from Colombia, created two apps, including “Telly, the Web’s TV,” which he said “lets you discover videos from your social neighbors and play a video feed on your tablet, TV or computer.”

“Our app searches videos your friends have posted on Facebook, as well as comments they’ve posted,” Tarazona said, “then puts all those videos into a single stream for you.”

Apps World drew an estimated 7,500 attendees, who feasted on a wide array of exhibits, workshops and presentations on the emerging trends in the world of mobile apps. While the expo’s tracks included mobile marketing, gaming and automotive, perhaps the sexiest part was the TV HackFest, tucked away into a conference room off the main floor.

“The goal here,” said HackFest founder Richard Kastelein, “was to marry together the creatives with the technologists and see what they could come up with.

And with such a vibrant transmedia community here in the Bay Area, where the storytellers and the coders work so well together, we feel we had to bring the HackFest here to the cutting edge.”

After the 30 teams received their instructions on Thursday morning, along with code-writing kits to help them quickly conceptualize and then build working mobile-apps for TV, the hacking began. Gathered at round tables and huddled over their glowing laptop screens, the code warriors set to rethinking the way we watch TV. And with the advent of the “second screen” phenomenon, where tablet and smartphone screens are increasingly becoming TV-viewing platforms, there was a lot of possibilities for the hackers to sink their teeth into.

Ishan Annand with Moovweb, one of the HackFest’s sponsors, said there is a flip side of the second-screen trend: creating dynamic TV versions of websites.

“TV Web design today is where Web design was a few years ago,” he said. “TV is a greenfield opportunity for front-end developers and designers to explore a new canvas and push the Web forward.”

The HackFest took place at what seems to be a golden era in New Television as technology upends the way content is being created, delivered and consumed. According to a survey by Rovi Corporation, “84 per cent of connected TV owners regularly use TV apps, and 80 per cent of people who are planning to buy a Samsung HDTV or Blu-ray player are interested in becoming connected because of the content portal.”

Additionally, the study found that TV viewing was stimulated by “smart TV” usage, with 49 per cent saying that the smart TV offerings made them watch more TV.”

With the second-screen boom expected to pick up speed this year, along with rumors of a new Apple (AAPL) TV being introduced sooner rather than later, the HackFest’s denizens were a sort of a portal into the future of television.

“Smart TV is the fastest-growing segment of consumer electronics,” said Oren Levy, co-founder of Smartpay TV from Cyprus, who exhibited at the show but spent a lot of time watching the hackers at work. “These guys represent the next big thing, because we’ll have more and more content connections on computers and tablets, and you’ll be able watch anything anywhere without having to have cable. It’s a whole new world.”

Contact Patrick May at 920-5689” follow him at Twitter/patmaymerc.

TV apps out of the TV Hackfest Picturesonic: Makes visual music run on a tablet, smartphone or television, allowing multiple users to jam with colors, patterns and sound effects, all in real time

Playalong: Lets viewers join in games that are superimposed over a TV show they’re watching, as trivia questions related to the characters pop up on a smaller screen” users make their choices using their tablet or smartphone

MCT

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