If you’re the sort who doesn’t like flipping between channels to keep up with what’s happening on multiple stations, a new startup has designed a set-top box just for you. The 4SeTV (Four Screen Enhanced TV) has been designed to let you stream four over-the-air (OTA) HDTV channels to a single TV, smartphone or tablet at one time.
The simple set-top box connects to an antenna and your home’s Internet connection via Ethernet to enable a 4-in-1 viewing experience. The streams are collectively decoded, scaled and re-encoded as a single stream to TVs, tablets and smartphones. However, it is important to note that the device does not connect directly to your TV. Older TVs with no Internet connectivity can still get in on the action (sort of) by using a Chromecast to view one channel of the four they view on their mobile device.
Since the box doesn’t connect directly to a TV, it doesn’t need to be in the same room as your home theater. Smartphones and tablets will be able to connect over Wi-Fi with a dedicated app for iOS (version 7 and later) and Android (4.4 KitKat and later). Certain Smart TVs connected to the home network will also be able to see the device, though it’s not clear which ones are compatible. PCs and Macs can stream only one channel, with the multiview mode only being offered later “if there’s enough demand.”
It will be possible to set up multiple boxes within the same home network, thereby allowing two users to stream their own sets of four channels. Daisy-chaining two boxes together using the RF output is also an option. Regardless of configuration, four people can watch their own channels, meaning one person can be on the TV, another on an Android tablet, a third on an iPhone and the fourth on an iPad, for example.
Only one audio feed can playback at one time, and users can select the channel they want to hear by simply touching it on the screen. On the left side of the screen, sliding a finger up or down controls volume level. There is no option to pause or record live programming.
There is a USB port in the back, but it’s basically dormant until “future enhancements” are supported. As a result, there will be no support for DVR capabilities out of the box. There are also no subscription fees.
4SeTV will work in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and South Korea. The Kickstarter campaign is live and likely roll past its $50,000 funding goal, with early backers being able to preorder a unit for $100. The regular price will be $180.
The company is offering a way to sample the 4SeTV experience without the hardware through the app’s demo mode of pre-selected sports segments.