By Ian Bush

By KYW tech editor Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Google has tried before to enter our living rooms, but its Smart TV platform isn’t exactly a best-seller.  Its latest attempt — announced and on sale Wednesday — puts web video front and center.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in this situation:

“I’m hanging out with my friends, and I want to show them one of my favorite YouTube videos.”

That’s Google’s Rishi Chandra, who says you could huddle around a smartphone or tablet — “but it’s much better to do on this big, beautiful screen.”

That’s what Google Chromecast does.  It looks like a USB thumb drive but plugs into an HDMI port on a TV, linking via WiFi to your home network.  Open the YouTube app on your portable device or laptop, and a new option — a “cast” button — will appear; touching or clicking that icon will send the video to the big screen.

The $35 Chromecast, which is powered by USB, also works with Netflix.

“It’s playing in beautiful 1080p HD, with support for 5.1 surround sound,” says Chandra.

Your phone acts as a remote for the video, and you can use other apps without interrupting what’s playing since it’s pulling content from the ‘cloud’ instead of streaming from your device — which also means you can pick up later on your handheld where you left off on your TV.

As a beta feature, Chromecast will allow you to project content from a Google Chrome browser tap to a TV.

It’s now available in the Google Play store.

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