New York -
, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup, introduced here this week a hardware control component to its popular iPhone-app personal universal TV control system.
The hardware kit (available now at a $99 suggested retail) features a battery-powered IR transmitter shaped like a pear and a Wi-Fi connection cable. Together with the iPhone app, the system brings a new level of universal home-theater control and program navigation to A/V entertainment enthusiasts.
The system will control most TVs, cable boxes, Blu-ray players, A/V receivers and more.
Advanced content listings are tailored to viewer's personal tastes and provide suggestions about shows of interest on multiple platforms at any given moment, from channels on cable and satellite TV systems to IPTV movie services. It also allows new ways to engage social networks around TV watching.
"This is not just a remote that replaces all the other remotes on the table -- it is a new way of experiencing TV,'' said Alec Marshall, Peel Technologies marketing VP.
To date, the Peel iPhone app has been available for users to browse on their phones, but the hardware kit, which is available through retail partners now, delivers the system functionality to the home theater.
Peel executives said more than 500,000 iPhone users have already downloaded the program.
For social networking, the system currently offers simple chatting on
and Twitter, but the capability will be updated later in the year to all users to send TV program recommendations to each other, among other things.
Marshall said the Peel Personal TV is a portal to the discovery of available content from multiple sources that helps users quickly find programs they want to watch by presenting content tailored to user interests. This is achieved using metadata gleaned by analyzing user viewing patterns to determine frequency and length of time spent watching certain types of programming.
Combining that with user like/dislike input (similar to the way TiVo works), the system is then able to recommend programs that fit with the user's tastes and interests.
The expedited set-time is expected to be a big draw to most users. Marshall explained that Peel's goal in designing the platform was to cut down the setup time to less than five minutes -- the setup demonstration actually took less than 2 minutes -- including finding and matching system components and TV service providers. In contrast, setup times for other brands of universal remotes on the market can take 20 minutes or more and a PC connection.
The Wi-Fi capability enables using the phone app without the need to even be in the same room as the TV set.
The free Peel app is currently compatible with iPhones and iPod Touches, and an iPad app is expected to arrive in June. In addition, the company is working on an app for Android-based products.
After choosing a show, the Peel interface switches to an intuitive gesture pad. Volume changes can be made by swiping a finger up or down. Swiping right or left rewinds or fast-forwards a DVR. Tapping the middle of the screen will pause the DVR.
Marshall said the kit is positioned to give retailers an attractive profit margin, and is being distributed through Navarre.