YouTube Leanback

July 2010 Google released the YouTube Leanback website. This website is specifically designed for viewing the YouTube videos on your television, with the special features for ease of use when leaning back on the sofa, such as auto play and continuous play of videos. Continuous play selects videos based on your personal "feed" or automatic follow-on suggestions from the initial video. As YouTube Leanback requires you to signin using either a Youtube or Google account there are possibilities of following what your friends are also watching.

Naturally the text and on-screen controls are large and detail has been kept to minimum but the most novel innovation is that all (most of) the navigation of the website can be controlled using the keyboard, even control of the Flash videos (pause, forward, back to start etc). This means that it is possible to configure a remote control to navigate the YouTube Leanback website, for the true TV experience.

YouTube Leanback shares a lot of design principles with the Google TV platform.

Videos start to play automatically

Pressing Return or spacebar brings up the player controls, left and right arrow keys to highlight a button and Return to action the selection. Spacebar toggles between play and pause.

These onscreen controls can also be displayed using the (air) mouse, click on the tabs at the top or bottom of the screen as the equivalent of pressing the up or down keyboard arrows.

Pressing pressing down arrow display the sequence of videos that you have played and coming up next. You can skip through these using left and right arrows, Return key to play the selected video

Pressing down arrow again brings up a list of categories or feeds, again the arrow keys navigate as you would expect.

Up arrow displays a box for entering search criteria, although strangely it is hard to get a text cursor into the box without resorting to a mouse click.

Linking YouTube Leanback to your tv-true platform

Simply point your tv-true platform browser to the http://youtube.com/leanback web page.

How tv-true is YouTube Leanback?

YouTube Leanback is well designed for the target TV interface. However there are some difficulties that affect the keyboard control (these may be caused by Flash taking the input focus away from the browser):

  • diffculty of "selecting" the search box to enter text. This affects Firefox, Opera and Chrome (IE is ok).
  • F11 to make the browser fullscreen does not work, this only affects Firefox. The other browsers (Chrome, Opera, IE) do go fullscreen with the F11 but not if you have used the mouse to click into the window (say to enter text in the search box)
  • ctrl-q or ctrl-w to close the browser window or tab do not work, firefox only. The other browsers do close the tab with ctrl-w but not if you have clicked into the window

Obviously these difficulties are overcome once you resort to using the mouse but that defeats the point of the leanback experience unless you have an air mouse.

YouTube Leanback doesnt appear to work for the Opera browser for the Wii, and there are also reports of problems on PS3, is Google trying to prevent existing living room compatible hardware gaining a lead in the "internet through the TV" market prior to launch of Google TV?

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