YouTube’s new Leanback service is set to take channel-hopping to a whole new level. The new free service, launched yesterday, allows users to cycle through YouTube videos as easy as flicking up and down the channels on your TV.
Movies load at full-screen and play through non-stop until you interact with them. The selection of clips that come up is determined by your user history, subscriptions, and videos that friends have liked. Controlling Leanback is done entirely using the keyboard cursor keys and the Enter key – a control system that lends itself perfectly for watching YouTube on your television.
At first I was a bit skeptical about Leanback. The feed generated for me based on my personal profile was loaded with crap. It included terrible stop-motion movies made with Transformers toys, a drunk cat, Family Feud bloopers and loads of dull mobile phone demonstrations. It was no better than all the other dross on late-night cable, and nearly put me off Leanback entirely.
Browse away from the ‘Your Stream’ section and you start to appreciate the real beauty of Leanback. Hit the ‘down’ arrow on your keyboard and you can flip through YouTube video categories and view the most popular clips. Better still, hit ‘Up” and you’ll be able to search the YouTube catalog, loading a feed of videos based around this keyword.
The longer you play around with Leanback the more sense it makes as a platform for watching videos. It’s even turning me on to the idea of Google TV, which I was dead against at first. I’m now keeping my fingers crossed that Leanback will soon replace the dreadful YouTube XL for PlayStation 3. Then my couch will be seeing a lot more action.