The developers behind TouchCast, a new video creation and sharing app for the iPad, are pretty clear about their plans: they want to change the way people use the Internet. It’s a lofty goal, and one few other developers have actually accomplished. After a few hours with the app, however, it’s clear they’re onto something. It’s why TouchCast earned a spot in Apple’s Featured Apps list on launch day, an honor some mobile devs would sacrifice a non-vital organ or two to achieve.
If you’re familiar with YouTube’s annotation system, you already have an idea of how TouchCast works. Both services allow content producers to place pop-up messages and other interactive elements into their videos. What sets TouchCast apart are their proprietary video widgets they call vApps. These vApps allow users to view scaled-down web pages, answer polls, monitor Twitter accounts and interact with other pieces of content without ever leaving the original video feed.
If you’re still scratching your head, check out this video in which founder and former TechCrunch editor, Erick Schonfeld, shows the undeniably cool tech features of what he calls “the video web.” Schonfield demonstrates nifty toys like the interactive picture viewer, a poll with real-time results and a fully workable Google map. Compared to YouTube’s annotation system, which mostly limits users to ugly colored hyperlink boxes, it’s easy to see how TouchCast will appeal to content producers.
vApps are far from the only tools TouchCast brings to the table. A series of instructional videos, viewable from the mobile app or a compatible desktop browser, show a slate of professional tools like green-screen functionality and a teleprompter mode. Creating content through the iPad app is a fairly straightforward affair thanks to a clean, easy-to-use UI, but Schonfeld promises a PC version with optimized controls in the near future.
One scroll through TouchCast’s already booming archive gives you a good idea of this app’s versatility. The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, for instance, features links to the stocks being referenced while a rather enthusiastic football fan and wine aficionado (social guru Gary Vaynerchuck) enhances his presentation with quick access to a web page and picture-in-picture video of his first-ever vlog. Even in this early stage, the enhanced videos are varied, interesting and, in a lot of cases, served well by the vApps that separate TouchCast from other online media outlets.
Users, of course, will dictate whether TouchCast flounders or flourishes. If early adopters embrace it like Schonfeld and company believe they will, expect more big names, like Forbes, to start popping up on the vid vault. It’s still hard to tell whether the video web will become an Internet staple or washed-up buzzword, but if your company’s web presence includes video content, you may want to download TouchCast.
Like all fledgling apps, TouchCast still has some growing pains to address if they want the video web to take off. For starters, there’s some work to be done with the audio/video syncing on the iPad, which will definitely need resolution if mobile users are to take the app seriously. Nobody wants to watch a presenter say something and hear the words three seconds later, especially iPad users, who can easily switch to another app (and delete an app just as easily).
Will TouchCast gain YouTube-like levels of popularity among online content producers and viewers? Probably not, but that’s not to say it still can’t have a major impact on the way we view the web. TouchCast is an interesting take on how the Internet might look in the near future. We’ll know more as the app picks up users and adds content to its library. But until then, keep monitoring the archives for wine, football and stock market advice.