Dabby just might be the cure for your streaming subscription fatigue
Cord cutters who are experiencing TV streaming service overload and getting tired of endlessly scrolling through Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like may have a new option that doesn't involve going back to cable.
A home entertainment device debuting at CES 2020 called Dabby seeks to end your need to toggle between every streaming service app by creating an AI-based search engine for your TV. The touch device (which basically looks like a thicker tablet) pairs with a TV dongle, and lets you use voice commands to search not only every paid streaming service, but also free sites and social media.
Read more: The best media streamers of 2020: Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV and more
Nearly 60% of Americans now use some form of streaming service, with the majority using Netflix, according to a 2018 CNBC survey. However, 47% report feeling frustrated with the growing number of subscriptions and services required to watch the shows they want, a March 2019 Deloitte survey found. After cost, the need to move between different apps is the biggest frustration for people, TV Time reported from an October 2019 study.
Dabby wants to address these issues by consolidating subscription services and replacing any other streaming device or smart speaker. The device can play anything that media streaming boxes like Apple TV and Roku can, from any streaming service, video or social media platform -- including Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo, YouTube, TikTok, Twitch, Spotify and Vimeo -- no apps required (however, you still have to be a subscriber to those services). You don't have to know where something is streaming -- the device searches the entire web for it. If you were upset when Friends was taken off of Netflix, you could still search it on Dabby and the system would automatically find it for you on another platform.
When you want to watch something, you say "Hey, Dabby, play the original A Star is Born." The platform will immediately play the best source you subscribe to (or that's free anywhere online). You'll also see other options appear on the device's screen, so if you wanted to rent the Lady Gaga version, you'd be able to do so directly from there and have it stream to your TV. You can also search for individual video clips and scenes.
"In the past two years, subscription services have exploded," Balaji Krishnan, founder and CEO at DabKick Inc., told CNET at CES 2020. "It's not just about premium services. Content is moving to the cloud, and everything is streaming now. Which means the experience of consuming that content has been redesigned."
Managing your subscriptions
I tested Dabby out at CES 2020, and it worked surprisingly well: You tap a button on the tablet and say "Watch Schitt's Creek," and Dabby immediately brought it up on the TV screen. You can ask for a specific episode, or use the tablet interface to choose one.
One of the major benefits to be its subscription management tab: Tap it on the top of the screen, and you'll see every TV subscription you have, how much you pay for each, and how frequently you use each one. You can choose to toggle on the "Subscription Manager," which detects if you haven't used one of your services in a long time, and automatically deactivates it to save you money, giving you the option to reactivate at any time. When you want to add a new subscription, Dabby can create an account for you automatically, so you don't have to mess around with creating new usernames and passwords, Krishnan said.
The tablet screen is interactive, and lets you see and leave comments while you're streaming videos from places like Instagram or Twitch, along with related videos and highlights for sports games you're currently watching. If your friend has a Dabby, you can watch a show with them long distance, and see each other on the second screen.
You can also take Dabby with you from room to room: Whatever you're watching will automatically transition from the TV screen to the tablet, and then to the screen of the TV in whatever room you are in.
You can preorder the Dabby touchscreen device and dongle from parent company DabKick as a pair in the US for $400, with shipping expected in March (for context, an Apple TV starts at $179, and a Roku Ultra costs $100). Electronics manufacturer Foxconn also plans to integrate Dabby's operating system into its future TV units.
Originally published Jan. 6.
Update, Jan. 7: Added quote and hands-on information.