For all the promises that "Smart TVs" make, they aren't really all that smart. Generally, they're just TVs with glorified streaming boxes built into them, plus a few unwieldy bells and whistles nobody wants or uses. So when a smart TV app comes along that actually looks cool, it's pretty shocking.
That's the case with Pixie, a newly redesigned app for Samsung's Smart TVs. Pixie keeps the TV view front and center, but it augments the experience by giving you a customised feed below and to the side of the screen. It's nicer than it sounds.
Say you're watching the world cup. You can customise Pixie to show you the live score of all the other games below the main image, and on the right panel, detailed stats for the game you're watching. Initial setup happens through a web portal (which seemed easy enough to figure out during our demo) and navigation is done through your TV's remote control.
Another powerful use case is Twitter. You can customise it to show your own personal feed, or you can have it searching for hashtags that are relevant to whatever you're watching. Basically, the idea here is to put the "second screen experience" onto your main screen, so you don't have to look down at your phone or tablet, and you don't miss a critical moment.
There are 10 apps at launch for those in the US, which include Instagram, Twitter, MLB, NBA, ESPN, Weather, Reuters, TMZ and a finance ticker. More apps (like Rotten Tomatoes) are on their way soon, as is the capability of controlling Pixie with your smartphone. Currently, Pixie can only pull contextual information automatically from antenna TV, so if you're watching cable, you'll have to manually tell it what you're watching. Not ideal, but better news is that it works on your screen regardless of the input. So say you're playing Xbox through HDMI3, you can still keep track of baseball scores while you're pwning fools in the face. You can also switch between entire user profiles, so your personal feeds aren't displaying when others are around.
Pixie was developed as a part of Samsung's Accelerator program, which means it's only for Samsung smart TVs and will likely stay that way (it's currently available on any 2012 or 2013 Samsung Smart TV, with 2014 support estimated sometime this fall), which is kind of too bad, because that's a pretty limited number of people. That said, it's cool to see a smart TV app emerge that actually looks like something we'd want to use. Hopefully it inspires others to build some decent stuff.