Unless you have somehow jerry-rigged a way to make your smartphone or tablet’s battery last all day and tied the device around your wrist, chances are that the device spends more time in your pocket or on the coffee table than in your hands. These large, high-resolution, ultra-connected displays are just lying dormant and waiting to be unlocked. Familiar thinks that it can be the company to bring those screens back to life — and, fittingly enough, it’s relying on a screen-saver to do it.
“There are millions of connected screens that are coming online that have broadband connections and are dark a good portion of the time. I think there’s a huge opportunity to bring those screens to life with the right kind of informative content,” says Familiar CEO Marcus Womack. “We think memories are a good way to start that.”
Billing itself as “the 21st century photo frame,” Familiar is today updating its applications and service with new personalization features and the ability to display video. Using the app allows you to see a slideshow of those videos and photos that you’ve uploaded from your camera roll or given Familiar access to from Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, and Instagram. (The ability to import Instagram videos should debut in a future update.) The company is debuting this new version on the iPad, and intends to bring similar features to Android in the coming weeks — an iPhone app and website are also available.
Familiar, as a company, isn’t likely to turn any heads. Screen-savers, even “connected” or “smart” ones, stopped being even mildly exciting around the time people started realizing that Nickelback wasn’t going to go away. Despite all this, however, Womack says that Familiar users have some 100 million photos roll across their displays each month. And 40 percent of those users will see a photo, grab their device, and interact with Familiar in some way, emerging from the depths of passive viewership and bestowing upon Familiar the ever-lauded “engagement” metric.
“We see the passive experience as a way to engage people and bring them back in to a rich experience,” Womack says. “It’s also, frankly, just a great way to delight people. If I were walking by the TV, for example, and saw a quick 10-second snippet of my son feeding an animal at the zoo, it’s just a great way to delight me as I go about my day.”
So many of us are surrounded by more screens than ever. There’s the television. There’s the smartphone and tablet. There’s the laptop. Familiar is hoping that the proliferation of displays, in conjunction with the floods of content we’re sharing through social networks and the high-speed connections that make it easier to retrive those photos and videos, will allow it to revive the screen-saver. These devices are already calling for our attention when we turn them on or hear them buzz in the other room — might as well try to make ’em vie for our attention when they’re not in use, right?