Published on January 10th, 2013 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
CES 2013: Twonky Beam, Xbox 360 and Beyond
The concept of the Twonky Beam is as wonky as its name.
While many products look to engulf users into its product line (*ahem* Apple), Twonky takes a different approach to “beaming” content to consumers. Instead of limiting users to have devices cohabitate and limit them to a product line, the Twonky application extends the reach of your device, and ensures that your media can be accessed throughout your connected home.
In the modern age of content connectivity it isn’t hard to find someone that owns a major gaming platform as well as a smartphone running either iOS or Android software. Some households are even fitted with these types in tablet form. The amount of “smart” hardware in the household enables Twonky Beam to enter the living room, and every other available screen in your house.
The concept of the beam is simple: install the device’s app into your iPhone, Android-based phone, Xbox 360, or turn to the necessary channel on your AT&T Uverse receiver. Then, any content selected from the application can be sent to the device and screen of your choice through the touch interface of your phone. A storage device with videos or images can be accessed and shown on the big screen once paired over your wireless network. The possibilities are almost endless.
While it may seem a bit confusing at first, the ability to “beam” content to any device in your house becomes convenience in its finest form. Install the app to your smartphone/tablet and use it to pair a device on your wireless network with the app. That Roku streaming content player immediately becomes more than a box that connects and plays Netflix on your TV. Now the device can be selected in your Twonky menu. A YouTube video can be streamed through this newly connected streaming player. Your Xbox 360 the same.
In fact, gameplay can be interrupted with a “beamed” video notifying you dinner is ready or that it’s time to go to bed. Record it, access and beam it through to the TV in a bedroom or living room. It’s not as creepy as it sounds, and was shown seamlessly in the demo.
The base navigation of the app brings users to a tiled interface much like that of the Windows 8 theme. Sliding the page from right to left demonstrates you basic “Beam” navigation. This is where devices that you have paired and on your home network will show up. Devices can be paired and kept on your network for continuous access to them.Tapping on a device selects it, readying it for instant use.
What was really innovative about this feature is the fact that you can minimize the app, back out or simply do something else while the video is playing on whichever screen you’ve selected it to play on. That’s it. You’re done. It is not necessarily considered a dual screen streaming app as the content on your handheld device isn’t streaming at the same time. There is no need to have both playing at once. What’s the point? The beam starts the content, plays it on the TV, continues to play, and you are free to browse the internet while the video “Crazy Cats of All Time” continues to play via your connected Xbox 360.
This is something that gives it the leg up over the current run of mirrored play devices. Dual screens might work for the Nintendo, but in the average connected home it’s just not worth it. The distance of a smartphone or tablet device is a lot further than the tether of your Wii U GamePad.
Although it might seem like a lot to take in at first, the application is simple and streamlined to fit your experience. It is essentially what you make it. For example, during the demo, Jerome Rota from PacketVideo lead us through a few of the Twonky Beam’s abilities. First, he queued up a video via YouTube on his iPad, then sent it to pop up and start playing on the Xbox 360. He then went to his Android phone and started up another on the Roku. Even as the video on the Xbox 360 started to play, he was able to browse the menus of the Twonky app and look at other content, something that current mirrored applications have limitations in.
Being that I am a Wii U owner, this is something that raised my brow. In essence, this is what Nintendo TVii is aiming to do with its browse and chat abilities. While this may seem like a grand time for those owning the console, others who want this feature will simply have to pay to play. That is, unless they own an iPhone/iPad/Android/Roku/Xbox 360/AT&T Uverse box/Apple TV. Install the app and you are ready to stream just about anything you can think of without separating yourself from the content.
During the presentation it was easy to see where Rota’s head was at. He talked a bit about the “gaps” that Twonky fills. He also talked about the “ecosystem” of devices in which you now have the ability to infiltrate. Instead of your Apple TV, iPad and iPhone fighting to stay as its own entity, you now have the ability to draw from them and stream their content throughout your household. This also opens pathways to the store files and drives that you might choose to stream from.
I can say that I was truly impressed from the presentation. It takes a lot of guts to contend with something like Apple TV, or better yet, the people that worship the air in which Apple TV streams over. There wasn’t much to the app, but in the bigger scheme of things, there really was.
Content now has the ability to see the light of day without the constriction of being in one marketplace or not being able to work on multiple devices. Linux is also supported for development — which opens other doors for server-based content. This is something that seems to be at the Twonky core in becoming an essential to any person’s entertainment.