Google just released a YouTube remote control app that allows one to seamlessly continue watching a YouTube video from the Android phone to the YouTube Leanback system (and back). Leanback provides a relaxing way to access YouTube contents on a large screen such as on a Google TV or on a desktop screen. Leanback continually picks videos from your feed, including your video subscriptions, video rentals and related videos. The system is designed for minimal user interaction.
The new remote control app behaves like a YouTube player until it detects that the user had also logged into the same YouTube account from a Leanback player (browser or Google TV). At this point, it transfers video playback to the Leanback system and starts behaving like a Leanback remote control. The remote allows one to perform the usual Leanback functions: pause and continue video playback, fast forward and rewind, as well as skip to the next or previous video from the feed. When the user logs out of the Leanback system, video playback is transferred back to the remote. Overall, the system behaves as expected. The controls were far more responsive than the YouTube video playback system itself.
More interestingly, the system lets you search for new videos on the Android remote and schedule them for playback on the Leanback system. Under certain circumstances, this juke box functionality is far more useful than the iPhone remote app style of immediate control of video playback on iTunes/Apple TV. Perhaps one can even use the remote app during a Leanback based video demonstration: presenters can dynamically choose and schedule the next demo video based on the audience reaction.
The system even works when the user logs into multiple Leanback browsers; remote control operations are seamlessly sent to all the browsers. However, there is apparently no feedback on the playback location from the browser back to the remote. So, any video browser that lags in playback will continue to respond to remote control commands, albeit at different points of the video. The ability to control multiple browsers is useful in the video demonstration scenario. For example, a presenter might see videos on a laptop, while also showing them on a nearby Google TV.
In a Google TV scenario, one missing feature is a social video selection feature similar to iTunes DJ with the iTunes Remote app. In the iTunes scenario, any local user (within the same link local multicast domain – Apple uses Zeroconf for location) using an iPhone/iPod/iPad can request a song/video for playback while the iTunes is playing in the DJ mode. The system sorts the playback order based on the number of votes. However, we suspect that the wide area nature of the Leanback system prevents Google from naturally selecting “local” users who could be allowed to control the feed.