Without even having to build any of its own devices, Facebook was everywhere at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. As more products are designed to connect to the Internet, developers are integrating Facebook into everything from televisions to cameras to cars. Users are spending more and more time on the social network, but it is unclear how much of a draw Facebook integration will be for consumers who might start to grow tired of seeing the service in so many products.
All the top television manufacturers and a number of startups are working on “smart” TVs that run apps including Facebook. If consumers follow the plans developers have for them, sharing what shows people are watching will be a big trend in 2012. Several companies showed off products that let people post their viewing habits to Facebook and sort through TV listings based on friends’ activity. DirecTV, for instance, will display what users’ Facebook friends are watching and allow people to view the same shows or record them for later.
Boxee is a streaming device that integrates Open Graph’s “frictionless sharing” capabilities. After two minutes of streaming video through Boxee, a story will be published to users’ Timelines and their friends’ Tickers. Then, similar to what Spotify does, the story could end up in News Feed as its own item or as part of an aggregate story about friends’ similar activity.
Zeebox, which is not a streaming service but an app that turns your mobile device into a new kind of remote, has a similar Timeline integration. Zeebox smartly includes a private viewing mode that lets users continue to see what their friends are watching and chat with people without posting what they are watching to Facebook. Giving users easy-to-use privacy controls is crucial for people to feel comfortable using social TV apps at all.
Yahoo-owned IntoNow is a mobile app that recognizes what show you’re watching by analyzing a sample of the audio, similar to how Shazam can identify songs. People can then choose to make a Facebook post about the show they’re watching. Users can also see synchronized news headlines, sports stats or tweets from people in the show.
In a note on the Facebook + Media page, Facebook also identified Snapstick, Trident and U-verse as partners who are bringing social data to the television experience.
Mercedes-Benz is bringing Facebook to the car. The company’s upcoming 2013 models will integrate Facebook with the car’s navigation system so drivers can post about where they are going along with an estimated time of arrival based on the current traffic patterns — almost like an advance check-in. Drivers can also discover which of their friends are nearby or whether there are any restaurants in the area that friends have liked or checked into.
The app gives people the option to browse their News Feed when the car is not in motion, but since most people have access to Facebook on their phones and other personal devices, this feature seems superfluous.
VoIP company Ooma introduced a home phone with photo caller-ID that displays images pulled from the owner’s Facebook, Google and Yahoo friends. Calls between people who are friends on social networking sites are probably more likely to happen on personal mobile devices than home phones, so the integration comes across as gimmicky. Another issue is that users often change their Facebook profile photos, which could confuse someone glancing at the caller-ID, as opposed to on phones where people can choose their own images to associate with a contact.
Photo sharing from mobile phones is outpacing use of digital point-and-shoots, but camera manufacturers have been fighting the trend by making new cameras that can instantly upload to social sites like Facebook. Kodak introduced two new WiFi-enabled cameras and Samsung announced four of its own. These will be exciting to people who do not have smartphones but otherwise the products seem behind the times.
Kodak also announced two new apps for people to get physical copies their Facebook photos, but neither is innovative. One app lets people design photo books that will be printed and delivered to them. The other makes photo collages people can print at home.
For more about Facebook product integrations at CES, see Facebook Live’s coverage of the conference here.