Did you ever watch people on science fiction shows talk to each other on a big video screen – at the mere touch of a button – and think it would be cool to communicate with your friends that way, too?

Well, it’s possible now, and it’s surprisingly easy to do right from the comfort of your own living room, thanks to a McKinney-based company.

Just as video calling is possible on a computer, video chat is also available in full-screen on your HDTV.

A new product called Biscotti (named as such because it’s about the same shape and size as the biscuit that goes with your latte) is becoming one of the most popular ways to turn an HDTV into a personal video call system.

A  2012 Consumer Electronics Show Innovations Honoree, the Biscotti connects to HDTV units in just moments with a single cable. Once connected to Wi-Fi, users can make and receive phone calls from their TV sets.

The company made Biscotti simple and easy to navigate, an added plus for grandparents or other computer users who would rather not set up a PC to video chat. There aren’t many pieces to the Biscotti system – just the small HD video phone (which, in most cases, sits atop the TV), the easy-to-use remote control, the AC adaptor and some mounting supplies.

The appeal of the Biscotti is obvious: It has been designed with a focus on extreme simplicity in both setup and use; calls can be made on a big screen; and chat between two users with Biscottis or a Google Talk account is free – which also means Biscotti users can communicate with other devices beyond HDTV, including smartphones and tablets.

Earlier this year, Biscotti Inc. set up its offices in the Valliance Bank building at the intersection of State Highway 121 and Lake Forest Drive in McKinney. The firm has about a dozen employees working there, and it continues to grow. 

Biscotti came to McKinney thanks to the efforts of the McKinney Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Biscotti Inc. met the MEDC’s technology targets and other criteria needed for relocation assistance. The company was welcomed as part of the Emerging Technology Program, which seeks to expand high-tech industries and job growth in McKinney. 

John Valencia, MEDC Director of Business Retention and Emerging Technology, says, “We are very pleased to have Biscotti here. They were looking to expand their offices and wanted to be in an excellent environment with a convenient location, and it all fit very well.”

Biscotti Inc. was founded in 2008 by Matthew B. Shoemake with the goal of making personal video calling in the home possible on a big screen while ensuring that calls were easy and accessible for everyone. 

As Shoemake said on WFAA’s “Good Morning Texas” last December, “We really felt that video calls were tethered to the notebook computer. … It didn’t feel like the ideal solution. We said, ‘Why can’t I have a big screen and cover the whole room?’” 

Dave Dettman, who appears on TV and radio progams as “Dr. Gadget” and introduces new products to his audiences, appeared on the popular ABC talk show “The View” in March, and began his introduction of the Biscotti with these words: “This is a game changer.” 

Dettman’s enthusiasm for the product has been echoed by many other reviewers and media outlets, and 2012 looks to be the big jumping-off point for the Biscotti.

It’s an idea whose time is here at last.


About the author: Christopher Foster is a writer and photographer living in McKinney. He still watches TV on a now-antique cathode ray set – boxlike and very heavy – but marvels at what has become of TV.