Hearo has launched its Hearo.Live service for watching movies and other events with your friends on desktop and mobile devices. It’s another option to stay close to family or friends during the pandemic as we can no longer easily gather together at each other’s home and watch shows.
Hearo is also raising money through stock crowdfunding on Republic.co, where investors have pledged more than $ 581,000.
In the early days of the company, CEO Edward “Ned” Lerner viewed Hearo.Live as a revival of the ancient Greek amphitheater, a place where fans can gather in the same virtual space to cheer for online sports or sporting events, or otherwise to participate in a shared social experience with their real voices.
But the company went through a lot of changes, especially during the pandemic. Lerner said in an interview with GamesBeat that the company was ready to launch its service in March in time for the March Madness event, where people could gather to watch live NCAA basketball games together. But the pandemic changed those plans as most of the live sporting events were canceled.
The company was also preparing for people to watch esports events, but the physical in-person esports events were also wrecked during the pandemic. Hearo’s team has been upgraded so people can watch streaming movie services and TV shows together on platforms like Disney + and Hulu. Fortunately, Lerner focused on the right basic technology, audio chat.
“Multiplayer games take over the game. We believe that multiplayer television will take over television next for the same reasons, and while gaming is huge, television is still 15 times bigger, ”Lerner said.
The app is available today for iOS, Android, MacOS and Windows.
“All the pieces – mobile devices, parties, live TV, and streaming services – have come together this year,” said Lerner. “This makes us the first launch party app that is cross-platform, mobile and PC-compatible and with which you can watch both live TV and video if required.”
Hearo allows subscribers to Netflix, Disney + and Amazon Prime Video to watch premium streaming services in sync with and while talking to their friends. U.S. cable subscribers can also host watch parties for live broadcasts from ESPN, NBC Sports, Fox Sports, ABC, CBS, and TNT. Users get the ultimate viewing experience while talking to each other as if they are sharing a large comfortable couch. The release makes Hearo the first and only full screen talk and watch party app that connects iOS, Android, macOS and Windows users.
“The setup is very similar to a smart TV that requires you to provide your Netflix account or your cable TV account,” Lerner said. “This was a big project as we essentially had to develop custom smart TV software. The good news is that it is behind us. “
You can watch free services like YouTube or Twitch without the need for paid accounts.
“We’re pretty much the only game in town where you can play by the rules and still share so you can all hang out,” Lerner said. “It opens up all kinds of possibilities.”
Fans can form groups of friends and then sign up for a service like Disney + and then broadcast the show to a virtual room. In this room, other friends can gather together simply by clicking on a Hearo link. You can talk to each other in a group rather than typing messages in an online chat, as is usually the case at a livestream gathering on Twitch. Hearo.Live lets you watch 25 different services in online groups where friends can talk to each other while socializing. It works on phones, tablets, and PCs, and I interviewed Lerner on the Hearo.Live service this week while we were watching a video of a road going through a beautiful forest.
I’ve known Lerner for decades. He has been making games for years and is the former technical director of PlayStation 4 at Sony. I met him a long time ago when he co-founded Multitude, an early internet multiplayer gaming startup from 1997. His game Fire Team was ahead of its time with online connectivity and voice conferencing. He was also chief technology officer at The Sims of Electronic Arts and worked at Looking Glass.
He started Hearo in 2017. Lerner spoke at GamesBeat Summit 2019 and we wrote about the company, which raised $ 1.8 million from 500 startups, Harmonix creative director Alex Rigopulos, and angel investor Michael Dornbrook, Tim Chae, Ross Koningstein, Richard Melmon and Charles collected Martin and Gady Nemirovsky. GamesBeat Summit 2020 also used Hearo to broadcast a clip from Josh Tsui’s game documentation Insert Coin.
Over the next year, Lerner hopes to expand the service in a number of ways by adding more partners and allowing more people to watch at the same time. The company has 12 employees and is based in San Francisco, but the team works virtually.
Lerner hopes the service will be a hit during the vacation when watching shows together is a family tradition.
“Instead of our connected devices disconnecting us and making us feel more lonely than ever, especially during the pandemic, Hearo lets us stay close to our friends and family,” he said. “We get more individual reports from people who say thank you because they can watch together, whether they are friends or other groups. This is really great.”
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