MOVL is turning TVs into social hubs

Atlanta, Georgia-based connected TV startup MOVL will officially launch its Pokerfun web app in Google (s GOOG) TV’s Spotlight Gallery next week, enabling users of the device to play a game of poker on the big screen while controlling cards on their mobile handsets.

Pokerfun is MOVL’s second stab at bringing this kind of cross-device interactivity to Google TV after launching the WeDraw game in May. The company’s CTO and founder Alan Queen told me during a phone conversation today that it’s not just about having fun with casual gaming. “The apps we are developing right now are to showcase our platform,” he said.

Check out a demo video of Pokerfun below:


MOVL’s core technology allows the company to connect Android and iOS mobile devices with TV platforms like Google TV, even if the individual devices don’t reside on the same network. For apps like Pokerfun, it will first check whether your Google TV device and the phones of all contestants are using the same WiFi network, and if possible utilize that infrastructure for all communications. However, if you have friends who are using their phone via 3G, it simply relays all data through MOVL’s servers.

This kind of infrastructure also makes it possible to extend the social hub functionality of TVs beyond a single living room. MOVL is currently working on a TV-based video jukebox that can be controlled via mobile phones, and Queen said that this would also work well in a bar setting.

Even more exciting could be the ability to pair two Google TV devices, making it possible to have people play poker over the Internet against each other while still using their mobile phones to control the experience. And then there’s the big goal down the line, which could be described as a kind of massively multiplayer TV app: What if, Queen asked, patrons in a sports bar could control an app with their mobile phones, with the same app also being displayed on a jumbotron in a sports arena?

Queen said that his startups is currently working with a few companies to develop branded cross-platform TV apps. But MOVL is also exploring options to license its platform to third-party Google TV app developers that are interested in bringing this kind of mulit-platform interactivity to their own apps. “Eventually, we’d like to open it up and make it available to anyone,” Queen said.