YouTube is trying to become as easy and painless to watch as the boob tube. In the process, the site hopes to learn enough about its viewers to replace their remote control.
Those ambitions came into sharper focus Wednesday with debut of a YouTube format called “Leanback.” The feature picks out high-definition clips most likely to command a person's attention and then automatically serves up one video after another.
YouTube believes viewers will feel like they're watching television if they don't have to search the website for another clip every few minutes.
As it learns more about viewers' preferences, YouTube envisions a day when coach potatoes eventually won't need their remote controls because Leanback will do all the work for them.
“We want to remove the 'What next?' question” for viewers, said Kuan Yong, Leanback's product manager.
YouTube previewed Leanback in late May when its owner, Google Inc., announced its plans for an Internet-focused TV. Wednesday marked the first time users were able to experiment with the concept. The feature will be among the options available on Google's Internet TVs when the Sony-made sets go on sale in the U.S. this fall.