Watching online video on your TV isn’t easy: Amazon’s Fire TV device doesn’t have a full-featured YouTube app. Google’s Chromecast adapter doesn’t have Amazon Video. Anyone wanting to use services from competing companies — say Amazon and Google — necessarily needs to rely on patchwork solutions.
Keeping track of multiple remotes and TV inputs is hard enough. Explaining this to anyone else in your household, or even the occasional house sitter, can be a nightmare. “If you have a complicated TV setup, you are gonna get support calls,” quipped Caavo CEO Andrew Einaudi during a recent meeting with Variety.
Einaudi knows first-hand what he is talking about: As a Director of Sling Media, he had a hand in creating and selling the Slingbox, which added one more device to people’s TV setup. Now, Einaudi wants to help people make sense of the jungle of adapters, boxes and cables connected to their TV sets, ironically by adding yet another device: Caavo.
|Caavo directly integrates with apps from major media services, and abstracts them from the devices used to run them. Courtesy of Caavo|
Caavo is a $399 device that essentially combines the apps from multiple streaming devices in a unified interface, complete with the ability to search for content and then have it launch on the device of your choosing. Consumers simply plug their streaming devices, game consoles and more into Caavo instead of their TV, and then use the Caavo remote for anything and everything they want to watch going forward.
Caavo’s remote control comes with an integrated microphone, with the device’s voice recognition being powered by Google’s text-to-speech smarts. Consumers can use this to voice search for a movie, or show, or even an episode of a show, and Caavo automatically fires up the right streaming app on any of the connected devices. Caavo also lets users browse apps like Netflix, Amazon Video and HBO Go on screen, and makes it possible to switch between apps on different devices without having to change the remote control.
|Caavo lets users search directly for shows and episodes. Courtesy of Caavo|
The device is 4K-capable, offers enough HDMI inputs to connect up to 8 streaming devices or game consoles, and there’s also a bunch of other tech integrated under the hood that could be turned on later to incorporate additional functionality, including Zigbee — a wireless technology often used for internet-connected appliances. At launch, it will integrated directly with a handful of big content apps, but users will be able to browse other apps with the remote as well.
Einaudi co-founded Caavo in 2015 with the late Sling co-founder Blake Krikorian, as well as Ashish Aggarwal, whose work history includes multiple years at audio systems maker Harman International, and Vinod Gopinath, who previously led the online TV guide Shufflr. The group has raised some $15 million in funding from DMC, Greylock Partners, Sky and Hearst, and now wants to use the money to slowly roll out Caavo to the masses.
As part of this roll-out Caavo aims to only sell 5000 units of its original device to consumers with high-end home entertainment setups later this year, and then learn from these first customers to eventually build a more affordable version with fewer HDMI inputs.
|At launch, Caavo supports up to 8 external HDMI devices. Next year, the company may launch a cheaper version with fewer inputs. Courtesy of Caavo|
During a recent demo for Variety, Caavo’s device worked well, save for a few initial hiccups. The Caavo team even showed off some remarkable feats — disconnect one streaming device, and Caavo’s hardware can automatically switch to another device running the same app to keep you watching.
Still, one has to wonder whether the device ultimately isn’t too focused on a pain point that may eventually go away on its own. “We continue to see consolidation efforts,” acknowledged Einaudi, admitting that even cable boxes are increasingly carrying online video apps. However, he also argued that the core problem won’t disappear any time soon.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that others won’t get the same idea; one could, for example imagine that TV manufacturers could embrace a similar solution to have their TV sets work better with connected streaming devices. However, Einaudi said that his company wasn’t interested in licensing its technology. The goal was to build its own hardware, he said.