This story is part of our continuing coverage of CES 2020, including tech and gadgets from the showroom floor.
Admit it, you’re a streaming junkie. Whether it’s Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, or a dozen other services, you now live to binge. But if you’re like many other streaming fans, you wish there was a way to enjoy all of that content without having to think about which app you need to be in. In fact, you kinda wish there weren’t any apps at all — just an easy way to find and watch your favorite movies and shows. Dabby — a $400 hybrid device that marries a tablet with a streaming stick — feels your pain and has a possible solution: Just tell Dabby what you want to watch and it will do the rest, no apps needed.
Coming off of a successful round of crowdfunding on Kickstarter, the Dabby was on display at CES 2020, and early reports suggest it might actually live up to the hype. And there’s a lot of hype. Not only does DabKick — the team behind the Dabby — promise that its device will play virtually every legal source of online content (as long as you have a subscription for the paid services), you get an impressive array of choices for viewing said content.
As a touchscreen tablet, you can view your streaming shows right on the Dabby. It’s even got a built-in kickstand for those times when your hands are occupied. With the included wireless HDMI dongle, you can fling those videos straight to your TV. Got more than one TV? Buying an additional dongle (or two, or three) lets you expand the number of TVs you can control, with each playing something different. It works with YouTube and with music streaming services too. An A.I. recommendation engine takes care of the heavy lifting when you want something to watch.
Once you’ve plugged in your subscription info, Dabby will keep tabs on your watching habits and automatically suspend any paid accounts that you aren’t using, ostensibly saving you money (DabKick claims it can resume these accounts when you need them).
But wait, as they say, there’s more! The Dabby can also act as a co-viewing system. The built-in webcam (with a convenient privacy shutter) lets you see your friends while you both watch the same online show. Finally ready to stop watching for a while? The Dabby can pull triple-duty as a digital photo frame and a smart speaker. And with a set of built-in far-field microphones, you can control the whole experience with just your voice.
It’s an incredibly ambitious product, and ordinarily, such a vast scope would give me pause. It’s one thing to try to beat Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku at the streaming device game, but to also target gadgets like Facebook’s Portal and Google Home at the same time? That’s outrageous.
And yet, one look at the DabKick team and you’re forced to admit that these guys have a ton of relevant experience. The company’s CEO, Balaji Krishnan founded and then sold Snapstick, a collaborative, social gaming platform. Before that, he put in time on the engineering teams at Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and HP. Krishnan’s vice president of products, Max Paley, was the team lead on products like Amazon’s FireTV, Echo Show, and Echo Look.
Still, there’s much we don’t know about Dabby. Though it’s a 4K device, we don’t know if it has support for HDR and, if so, which formats? Does it do Dolby Vision? What about Dolby Atmos? Is it compatible with hi-res music from Amazon Music HD or Tidal? Does it use a third-party voice assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, or is it a totally new system owned by DabKick?
There’s apparently no fee for using Dabby, but how does DabKick support what must be some impressively expensive infrastructure costs for both the A.I. engine and the video conferencing features? Digital Trends reached out to DabKick’s PR contacts with these questions but they had not responded by the time we published this story. We’ll update this story when we do.
Even though the Dabby has left its crowdfunding stage and is now taking pre-orders via a dedicated Shopify site, we think it’s worth reminding you that these kinds of projects have a tendency to not materialize as promised.
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