With the goal of transforming the way people watch, interact with, and perhaps most importantly, share the way they experience television, the founders of New York-based digital agency Circ.us are spinning off a new “social TV” platform that will enable viewers to experience their favorite shows as if they were “live events” that can be shared with friends or other random viewers. The new platform, dubbed TV Dinner, is the brainchild of virtual and augmented reality expert John Swords, who co-founded Circ.us with digital agency vet Adam Broitman to apply those cutting-edge technologies to transform the way consumers experience brands. Now they’re doing it for the way they watch TV.
Backed with a $400,000 round of seed capital, Swords and Broitman have teamed up with Edward Babbage, former CEO of electronic music company Resonant Vibes, to launch TV Dinner, whose initial application, not surprisingly, has been created for the iPad, but which will be adapted to other consumer electronic interfaces that people use in conjunction with their TV viewing.
Swords says he got the idea for TV Dinner while working on a virtual reality application for CBS’ “CSI: New York” in 2008, and realized that a simplified version that did not utilize avatars would lower “barriers to entry” for average TV viewers.
“When the iPad came out, I knew it was perfect for this,” he says.
While so-called “social TV” applications are anything but new, Swords says most of them focus on leveraging stand-alone applications such as “check-in” features that let your friends know when you are watching a show they might want to share, or apps that enable you to use your iPad or other device like a TV remote control.
TV Dinner, Swords says, is based on the logic of a massively multiplayer online game that enables users to seamlessly share conversations about the shows they are watching in “real-time,” while interacting with “self- expression tools” and “gaming elements” that come from the gaming and virtual reality industries.
Swords says the initial version being launched for the iPad is the “first of many “iterations” that will expand to incorporate other elements and features that change and enhance the way TV viewers watch their favorite programs.
Swords and Broitman, coincidentally, are guest editors of the upcoming “Screens” issue of MEDIA magazine, which is published by MediaPost.