You’ve probably heard of Kik Messenger, a phone messaging app with the backing of Union Sqaure Ventures and RRE. It turns out Kik was just the beginning of the company’s plans — today it’s launching Clik, which is even more impressive.
Put simply, Clik can turn your phone into a remote control for any screen with a browser.
CEO Ted Livingston demonstrated the app for me earlier this week. Here’s how it works: You point your desktop browser at ClikThis.com, which generates a unique QR code. Then you open the Clik iPhone or Android app, aim the camera at the screen, and the app uses the code to figure out which device you’re trying to control. Once it’s synced up, you can select YouTube videos from your phone, and they’ll play on the screen.
The idea of turning a smartphone into a remote control isn’t new, but using Clik, the process of syncing up a phone to a screen is ridiculously fast and easy, and it requires no extra hardware.
Once you wrap your head around the concept, what’s really impressive is the speed. When Livingston demonstrated the app, he could play videos, jump ahead, and adjust the volume instantaneously. I tried it out in the TechCrunch office, which has some of the worst AT&T reception known to man, and the lag was just 1 or 2 seconds. Apparently, Livingston and his team have had the idea for Clik for years, and they spent much of that time developing infrastructure capable of delivering that speed. In the meantime, they realized the technology could also be used to power a super-fast messaging app (namely, Kik), so the team “left Clik behind” for a little while, Livingston says.
And while the Clik app is limited to playing YouTube videos, that’s not the real vision. Instead, he says the app is more a proof-of-concept for potential partners, who may be in the video, music, photo, or games industries. Any online video service, for example, could use Clik to turn their smartphone app into a remote control for their desktop site. It’s particularly powerful because multiple phones can be synced up to a single screen — so you could challenge your friend to an online game, with both of you using your phones as controllers. Or if you’re throwing a party, you could have multiple DJs controlling the music from their phones. (On the second thought, that last scenario could turn into a disaster).
For now, you need an Internet browser for Clik to work, which rules out most TVs. Livingston said he’s currently targeting college students, who consume most of their media on computers anyway. In the long-term, however, it sounds like he has a plan for getting onto TVs too — in fact, he argues that this is a better approach to creating Internet-connected “smart” TVs. Rather than trying to build and push entirely new devices onto the market, Livingston says that with Clik, “Every screen just becomes a dumb output for your smart remote.”
You can download the iPhone and Android apps here. Clik is also starting to look at partnership requests, through the firstname.lastname@example.org email address.