Tag: interactive TV

Netflix works harder on interactive video

Article Netflix official logo - courtesy of Netflix

Netflix to create more interactive content | Advanced Television

With Interactive TV, Every Viewer Is a Showrunner Now | WIRED

My Comments

Netflix is working harder towards providing interactive video as part of its subscription video-on-demand service.

This popular service took baby steps towards this goal with the Puss N Boots children’s TV show, using it as a proof-of-concept show. It is part of having to compete with Apple and Disney who are running or wanting to launch subscription video-on-demand services that are replete with family-friendly content. There is also the public-service broadcasters who are filling their broadcast-video-on-demand services with children’s content of high educational value as part of their public-service remit.

But Netflix have taken this concept in to the mainstream with Black Mirror Bandersnatch which is a sci-fi “time-travel” program about creating a video game in the 1980s. It uses an interactive metaphor that is based on the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books but could be also seen as something similar to some interactive films or adventure games released through the 1980s and 1990s.

With these two titles, they have taken the video-on-demand concept further by linking it to interactive video. It is facilitated by streaming alternate video content under the user’s control rather than loading it from local storage whether it’s an optical disc of some sort or a computer’s local file system.

User-experience problems and inconsistencies

Netflix still faces problems with how their interactive-video efforts work with the different client-side setups that their users use. What is being highlighted is that some of their platforms and viewing setups won’t play this interactive content properly and is underscored most with popular setups involving the large-screen TV. For example, the popular Apple TV device, whether through its interface or as an AirPlay target for an iOS device, doesn’t handle these titles as doesn’t the Chromecast device or the Windows Netflix app.

This is a key issue regarding interactive video because video content has always been conducive towards viewing on a large-screen TV, especially in a “lean-back” manner.

Some titles like Puss N Boots do resolve to running as a traditional linear experience if the viewing setup doesn’t support interactivity whereas others just won’t play at all.

Netflix will have to answer this problem by updating the client software for tvOS, Windows 10, Chromecast and other platforms to cater towards interactivity. Some articles even raised issues like multiple buffering for interactive titles especially where the devices don’t have much in the way of RAM or storage.

Privacy issues associated with interactive content

The technology press are raising concerns about the issue of end-user privacy when users engage with interactive content. It is although the responses are encrypted using SSL encryption technology used to make Websites secure.

In the Black Mirror Bandersnatch application, the user interactivity would be considered to be benign with “The Register” seeing it like whether one liked Thompson Twins or the contents of a “Now That’s What I Call Music” compilation album. But the interactivity in a subsequent title could be seen as a way to identify factors such as a householder’s political affiliations for example.

If an interactive-video platform is being used to gather user preferences, there needs to be a user-privacy and data security framework concerning this activity. For example, any data to be collected has to be anonymised so it doesn’t point to particular households.

Taking it further

Different genres

Netflix is intending to take the interactive concept towards other genres like history, adventure and romance especially by making this kind of content targeted towards adults. This will lead towards a way to legitimise interactive video content and cause the screen arts community to explore it further.

This could be achieved through modelling the interactive titles on various point-and-click graphic adventure games that existed through the 1980s and 1990s and working these concepts harder.

As well, it has to be realised that non-fiction content like documentaries can benefit heavily from interactive video. For example, viewers could work through one of these shows but choose to see more detail on something they are curious about, whether as a slideshow, animation or full-motion video. Similarly, a non-fiction title can give viewers the know-how and opportunity to follow a call-of-action relevant to the title at any point during the viewing session.

Different approaches

Most likely, interactive video will be underscored in the form of  a multiple-choice storyline where certain options affect how the content evolves.

But it can also be in the form of a traditional linear storyline that has the ability to “telescope” at particular points. This is where viewers have the option to view a more-detailed version of a concept that is a point in the storyline, whether as video, animation or on-screen text. It can also extend to a 360-degree video-tour of a space relevant to the storyline where the viewer can use their remote control to navigate that space and, perhaps, see explanations about particular details. It is more so with remote controls that implement trackpads or gyroscopic sensors.

In some cases, you could integrate a “mini-game” or programmatic simulation within the title that the user can play if they so wish. An example of how this could take place could be a crime drama based on the Dick Francis novels that are set within the murky world of horseracing and betting. In this case, there could be the option to emulate one or more betting scenarios concerning one of the subject horse races or see comparative “market odds” for a race before and after a situation highlighted within the drama’s storyline.

This kind of approach may require the use of computing power within the client device or the server to perform any necessary calculations. Here, it may depend on how powerful the client device is and what is being expected for the necessary calculations.

Interactivity as an option

One thing that needs to be thought of as interactive video catches on is the concept of offering “interactivity as an option”.

This is where the content is run in a linear fashion following a known storyline from beginning to end in order to satisfy group-viewing scenarios, viewing setups that don’t support interactivity or simply where you just want to simply relax and view. It may also allow critics to get the essence of the content to make a fair judgement on what the content’s baseline is about.

But it has to allow the user to enable an interactive-viewing mode to allow the individual viewer to benefit from the interactivity.

Taking the interactive TV concept to other VOD platforms

As well, other video-on-demand platforms will want to explore interactive TV as part of their operating software so they can work towards creating their own interactive content. Here, it could be achieved through an operator offering a white-label interactivity solution that other video-on-demand platforms could implement.

Then there is also the issue of having end-user setups work properly with interactive-TV abilities. Here, it will require the software on all of the platforms especially the popular “big-screen” ones, that facilitates the end-user experience whether as a Web-page or a native app to work tightly with these experiences. It also includes operational setups that are used to “point” a regular computer’s or mobile device’s screen to the big screen such as a hard-wired connection, AirPlay or Chromecast.

One of the video-on-demand providers or a third party may decide to approach this situation by offering a “white-box” interactive-TV solution with software libraries for playout and end-user applications. This approach can then speed up the deployment of an interactive-video experience within a video-on-demand service, especially if the service provider is a broadcast video-on-demand type or one that targets niche audiences.


By issuing Black Mirror Bandersnatch as an interactive video title, Netflix is putting forward a strong case for taking interactive video content in to the mainstream. But they will need to work harder to make this new content type work properly for everyone.

Set-top boxes to increase the richness of additional information for video content


Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

Freebox Révolution – – to have a better integrated information system for video content

Les fiches de films et séries sont de retour sur Freebox Révolution | Freenews.fr (French language / Langue française)

My Comments

Free.fr have integrated Gracenote’s video-information resource in to their latest firmware for the Freebox Player which is part of the Freebox Révolution.

This is a sign where companies like Gracenote and Rovi create data storehouses of information about every movie, TV show and key celebrity. This accurate information is provided as a service to set-top box manufacturers and TV service providers so that viewers can bring up this information on the big screen relevant to the programme they are watching or are showing interest in on the EPG. These are also designed to be “source-agnostic” so you can link to shows available on air, on a video-on-demand or catch-up TV service and held on your PVR or home network.

For films and TV shows, you have access to rich synopses, cast / crew lists, mood information, genre information and the like. As well, you could bring up information about a celebrity’s biography or their filmography – which films or TV shows they were involved with. You could do this with IMDB on your smartphone or tablet. But these set-top-box / smart-TV solutions are more about having the information one click away from what you are watching or showing interest in while some implementations have the ability to work across two screens – your mobile device and the main screen.

They would also allow for the ability to highlight “like content” that is currently available to view so you can discover what else is worth watching. But a lot of these services don’t really support any externally-curated watch-list functions where a film critic, radio personality or similar person can supply a list of shows worth viewing. This is more so with people who follow sources of quality journalism like public broadcasters, broadsheet or “compact” newspapers or the good newsmagazines; along with those of us who follow blogs about films or TV content.

Personally, I would have this function based around a Webfeed that you can “send” across your home network or the Internet to your set-top box so you can see what shows to search for based on that film critic you are following.. It would also play hand in glove with movie reviewers who want to simply provide supportive reviews to these information services.

What I see of this is the ability to pull up more about what you are watching, especially when you are watching the content with someone who is a “walking encyclopedia” about films or you see someone in that show whom you remember seeing in other TV shows.

Dolby to provide a personal soundtrack for sporting and cultural events


Dolby’s vision for the living room includes abundant audio options | Engadget

My Comments

Most of us who watch sports have a preference for a personalised audio experience during these events. For example, a common method of enjoying cricket in Australia is to have the TV’s volume turned down and the ABC radio commentary playing on the radio or hi-fi. This is due to “cutting out” the TV advertising as well as listening to cricket commentators who know what they are talking about.

Similarly, I have watched the Tour De France on SBS and do enjoy the English-language commentary that is provided but have had a taste of the French commentary when there was a technical mishap and would appreciate that, due to my knowledge of the language. Sometimes, a simple “music-and-effects” soundtrack for a royal wedding or similar public ceremony may suffice as the audio experience rather than what some might see as a “slanted” commentary.

Dolby is putting forward the idea of a highly-personalised soundtrack for sporting, cultural and other live events that can include one or more different commentary streams along with, for example, effects or other “event-driven” sounds that follow something like a social-media stream. This can be derived from “existing infrastructure” like broadcast commentary, or IP (the Internet) which could be something like an alternative radio or TV commentary or a “text-to-speech” of Twitter comments from your friends.

Of course, they say that it could require additional hardware at the broadcaster’s and consumer’s side for this to work but a lot of smart-TV and set-top-box platforms that have an Internet connection of some sort could adapt to this easily through a firmware update or the delivery of an app.

This application for interactive TV could be a godsend to those of us who love our sporting and cultural events our way.

Two-screen TV viewing a strong trend


The Future Of TV Is Two Screens, One Held Firmly In Your Hands | Fast Company

My Comments

There is something that is becoming a reality with TV. It is where our TV-viewing sessions are involving two screens – one large screen carrying the main video and one smaller screen that we are holding in our hands.

This has been brought about by the popularity of the tablet, laptop and smartphone which are serving the second-screen role.

Some of us may think it is just for checking email or the activities of our Facebook Friends or Twitter followers. But a fair bit of this activity is to do with the content itself.

For example, one could be using GetGlue, Fango or other TV-related social networks to find out who is watching this show and what others have to say about it. Similarly, one could be checking the show’s Website and looking at other information and commentary that exists there. These are activities that may not work well on the big screen.

Similarly, most big-screen applications cannot support multiple concurrent logins for social-network or similar uses; and they are typically require “pick’n’choose” or “SMS-style” text entry.

In the case of news, a good quote for this is that “the revolution doesn’t have to be televised”. Here, one could be checking other news resources to verify the veracity of a news story, which can be very difficult during election time. This is augmented through comment feeds and Tweet feeds that are set up during news events like the one I participated in during the UK parliamentary inquire in to the News Corporation phone hacking scandal where I was dropping Tweets in to the feed from a Fujitsu laptop that I was reviewing. Similarly the scoreboard apps that I have mentioned about previously could simply work as an always-live scoreboard display during a sporting event and some sports like cricket or racing may benefit from these apps further by displaying supplementary scores like track position or bowling scores.

Of course, the commercials as we know them will be hamstrung by the two-screen viewing experience. This is more so as the traditional goal of eyeballs at the screen during ad breaks is reduced more. Here one could be following up information on the second screen while the ads play on; as well as visiting the kitchen or bathroom or stoking up the log fire. But the information that one could be following up on can relate to what was in the TV program; or it could be to follow up on something that was advertised during that ad break or a previous ad break.

As I have noticed and observed, this concept of two-screen TV is hard to adjust to for some people, especially the older generation who are more interested in focusing directly on the screen. It may be us simply glancing down at that smartphone or tablet so we can know further what is going on with some events.

I see this as becoming an interesting chain of events as we integrate in to an online and highly-interactive media-consumption life.

Smart TV Alliance–the goal of a level playing field for connected TV


Will Smart TV Alliance challenge cable operators? | FierceCable

LG launches “universal” smart TV platform | CNET

Leading TV Makers Launch Smart TV Alliance, Provide Infrastructure For Effective Collaboration Among Smart TV Makers And App Developers | FierceCable

From the horse’s mouth

Smart TV Alliance – Website

My Comments

At the moment, there are many different connected-TV platforms out there offered by different hardware-manufacturers for use with their “smart-TV” sets and video peripherals.

This provides key challenges for both content creators and video-hardware companies alike. Content creators would be required to work towards creating their interactive content and service-to-TV front ends for each smart-TV platform and, in some cases, this would require negotiation with the platform owner ie the video-hardware manufacturer for them to develop for that platform.

Similarly, there is a higher cost of entry for companies who haven’t established a “smart-TV” platform of their own. This especially applies to those who make TVs, Blu-Ray players and video peripherals for multiple brands on an “OEM” or “ODM” basis or who focus on certain aspects of their device’s design like a European TV maker offering premium TVs that excel in picture and sound quality or a computer-technology name offering network media players.

What has now just happened with LG and TP-Vision; who are represented by the Philips TV nameplate, is that they have started a “Smart TV Alliance”. This is an industry association open to broadcasters, pay-TV providers, video-hardware manufactures and software developers who want to create a level playing field for the connected-video marketplace.

They even targeted the pay-TV industry so that this industry doesn’t have to focus its activity around set-top-box infrastructure which has a high capital-expenditure cost.

Issues that have to be raised include a standard SDK and codebase for applications, encouraging the support for standard network-connected and local-connected peripheral-device classes as well as support for industry-standard broadcast-broadband TV arrangements. This, along with home-network integration, could be worked out using one or more reference implementations for these sets.

Similarly, the Smart TV Alliance could work out issues concerning “multi-box” setups like home-theatre setups and Blu-Ray players as well as network setups like network DVRs and smartphone / TV viewing arrangements.

Such an association can open the path to a critical mass for connected-TV applications such as IPTV channel directories, multi-screen synchronous viewing and video-on-demand services.

Consumer Electronics Show 2012–Part 2

Audio and VIdeo

Smart TV

There is still intense interest in the smart-TV platforms where your TV is effectively a computer connected to the Internet. This is more so with the idea of integrating multiple viewing screens ie the large TV screen, one or more computer screens, and the screens on tablets and smartphones.

Sony have been dabbling with the Google TV platform, mainly in the form of network video peripherals rather than a TV, which I will mention below. Of course, they are still maintaining their Bravia platform. They were also to promote this concept in a Las Vegas wedding at the Bellagio Wedding Chapel between “Bravia” (Sony’s Internet TV platform) and “Sony Entertainment Network” (Sony’s online content entity).

As far as the interactive-TV lineup goes, Sony have focused this function across their HX and EX “lounge-room” models with the HX series being ready for Skype once the user purchases an optional camera.

Samsung have devoted most of their press event to the TV being the “smart hub” of the connected home. This is with the use of a connected TV chassis that has a dual-core CPU, as well as building up the “Smart TV” platform around an app store and a video-content-distribution platform. They even are using an Android app as the TV’s remote rather than supplying the remote with the TV set. They even ran a competition for the development of a multi-screen app which makes best use of the TV screen alongside a smartphone or tablet screen.

As well, Samsung put forward an “open-frame” design for TV sets with a user-upgradable computer processor. This is in a similar way to how the desktop computer has been designed and is underscoring the fact that these smart TVs are really large-screen computers in their own right and are expected to last for in the order of ten or more years.

Even Lenovo had come to the fore with a 55” LCD set that is driven by the Android “Ice Cream Sandwich” operating system. This would link to their own app store and cloud services and have the usual “smart-TV” features like Wi-Fi connectivity and ability to use an SD card as storage.

Similarly, a “fork” of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, which was targeted at the Internet-enabled TV set, had been launched at this show.

Ultra-high-definition TV

Another main trend surfacing this year at the Consumer Electronics Show is ultra-high-definition TV, also known as UDTV or 4DTV. This is where images have a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels and is pitched at the very large screens of 103” and bigger.

LG is intending to demonstrate an 84” prototype set which works at this resolution while Sony even had the idea of having some of their Blu-Ray players upscale the 1080p video to the higher resolution offered by this newer technology.


The main trends affecting this technology are glasses-free 3D screens where you don’t need to wear glasses to watch the 3D effect; use of cheaper cinema-style passive 3D glasses which don’t need to link to the set or require batteries; as well as standards-based active glasses systems.

Toshiba is launching a glasses-free QFHD 3D TV 

OLED as a TV display technology

LG and Samsung have made efforts to bring the OLED display technology to the living-room TV size. Here, they have proven it by demonstrating 55” TV sets that use this technology rather than the LCD or plasma technologies for their screens.

There were rumours that Sony was to dump OLED technology for TV displays but they wanted to refine it to a cost-effective point for professional and consumer users. They have also shown a “Crystal LED” screen prototype which works in a similar vein to LED screens used in public places but implemented on 55” displays.

Other TV news

Some classic names of respect are using this fair to strengthen themselves in the American market. Westinghouse have launched a 3D TV but none of their sets came with Internet-enabled TV functionality. This was to keep their sets at an affordable price point.

RCA had rebuilt their name on a large run of TVs for the North American market as well as fielding a 55” Internet-enabled TV for the Latin-American market. They were using this show to launch some Android-powered mobile TV sets for the up-and-coming “Dyle” mobile / handheld terrestrial TV platform in North America.

Speaking of Dyle, Belkin and MCV were launching an array of equipment and accessories so that people can benefit from this mobile TV platform.

Home-theatre and Hi-Fi

Samsung had used this show to launch two soundbars with iPod / Galaxy S / Allshare (DLNA) integration with one being based on hybrid valve / digital amplification technology. They also ran with two Blu-Ray-based home-theatre-in-box setups with “Disc-Digital” which is Samsung’s implementation of the UltraViolet “digital video locker” service as well as the 7.1 channel unit being based on the above-mentioned valve-digital hybrid amplification technology. The other 5.1 channel version implements a wireless link for the back speakers and both systems use Wi-Fi to link to the home network.

Samsung even launched a home-theatre soundbar which can become two speakers and could link to sources via HDMI ARC (audio return path from HDMI 1.4-compliant TVs) or Bluetooth A2DP. RCA also launched a similar soundbar that connected to the home network and worked as a network media player for Netflix and similar services.

They are also implementing the “DIsc-Digital” UltraViolet implementation across the Blu-Ray player lineup at this year’s CES. One of the players is a similar size to a Discman and accepts discs through a slot while another of the players is a slimline form factor with HDMI inputs for TVs that don’t have enough HDMI sockets.

Sony have shown two Google-TV-based network video peripherals, the NSZ-GS7 which is a network media adaptor and the NSZ-GP9 which is a Blu-Ray player. As well, they have released two DLNA-capable Blu-Ray home theatre systems with full access to the Bravia Internet TV platform as well as a home-theatre receiver. Sony also released a few “HomeShare” DLNA speakers that connect to the Wi-Fi home network and have audio content pushed to them.

Panasonic have run with a large lineup of Blu-Ray players and Blu-Ray home-theatre systems. All of these connect to the home network and support DLNA functionality but the 3D-capable models and the home-theatre systems provide full access to Panasonic’s Viera Connect smart-TV platform including Skype and the Social Web for your existing TV.

These latest releases by Sony and Panasonic mean that you can use the cheaper and older TVs and have full access to the Internet-provisioned “smart TV” content and applications out there. In the case of the Panasonic 3D Blu-Ray players and home-theatres, add the Skype camera and you have just enabled a Skype-based video-conference setup,

Pioneer also used this show to launch the N-30 and N-50 audio-focused network media adaptors which work with DLNA 1.5 and Airplay network-media setups and the vTuner Internet-radio directory. They can handle 24-bit 192-kHz WAV or FLAC high-grade audio files and are Wi-Fi / Bluetooth ready with optional modules. The N-50 can also work as a high-grade digital-analogue converter for a CD player or MiniDisc deck.


Samsung, Sony and Toshiba had launched cameras that were capable of uploading images to cloud-based photo-sharing services without the need for a computer. In the case of Sony, their Bloggie Live and Bloggie Sports cameras were being pitched as an alternative to the smartphone’s camera for Internet work.

Toshiba also exhibited a 3D camcorder with a built-in glasses-free 3D LCD screen so you can preview your 3D images properly. As well, Polaroid demonstrated a smartphone-style digital camera with a “proper” optical zoom lens – something that could be considered a bridge between a smartphone or digital camera.

Personal Lifestyle


This show still hasn’t become a North-American showground for domestic appliances in a similar vein to the Internationaler Funkaustellung in Berlin. But LG was using this show to promote their “SmarThing” range of network-connected “white goods” which could be monitored from a computer.

Of course, Samsung also demonstrated a washing machine and clothes dryer that used a colour LCD touchscreen but was able to be controlled via an app on a smartphone. This means that you could track your washing from your phone’s screen.

Home Automation and Security

There has been some activity on this front mainly in the form of network-hardware vendors offering IP-enabled surveillance cameras, with TRENDNet offering a lineup of 12 units with varying features.

Other than that, the “Next Learning Thermostat” which learns your heating / cooling settings through the day was premiered at this show. Belkin also premiered the WeeMo home-automation system which is effectively an appliance-control module that responds to your smartphone.

Personal Health Care

There has been some more effort in developing online personal-health-care equipment which interacts with your smartphone or home network.

Withings, previously known for their Wi-Fi-connected bathroom scales, have released a baby scales which also links with the same network enablement and online health-monitoring setup as these bathroom scales. Similarly iHealth have released a wireless body-fat scales along with a wireless blood-pressure monitor and a “Smart GlucoMeter” glucose sensor for your iOS device. As well, FitBits released the Aria Wi-Fi Scale which is bathroom scales that link to your home network and measure weight, body-mass index and body-fat percentage.

IP Telephony

There has been some activity concerning voice and video Internet-based telephony. This is primarily with Skype being part of most of the “big-name” smart TVs and able to be added on to existing TVs through the use of this year’s Panasonic 3D Blu-Ray players and home-theatre systems. But Samsung also launched a Skype HD videophone unit for TVs and Biscotti launched a similar device for their own service.

RCA had demonstrated their voice-based IP telephony systems for business use while Ooma launched a cordless VoIP phone which has a colour LCD screen and can sync to Facebook for “picture caller-ID” images. $10 a month with the Ooma service provides for conferencing, second-line service and advanced call forwarding.

Tomorrow, in the last of the series, I will be talking about the network technologies that are to link these devices to the home network and the Internet.

Internet-based health care–now a reality


BBC News – Health care by TV and remote control

My Comments

The home network and the Internet is now becoming an essential part of personal health care in may ways thanks to a variety of technologies.

Facilitation technologies

Level playing field for health-care sensor devices

Certain technologies are making this feasible through the use of device classes for health-specific devices such as blood-pressure / pulse cuffs, blood sugar monitors and heart-rate monitors. They are also being enabled with low-voltage wireless technologies like Bluetooth Smart and up-and-coming low-voltage Wi-Fi designs.

These devices are being made able to work from two AA batteries or a 3V watch battery for a long time, yet use an industry-common data link and device class. The actual benefit from these design factors is the ability to supply health-care sensor devices that are cost-effective to buy and maintain; yet are able to integrate with common computing devices.

Ubiquity of open computing platforms for this application

It is being extended with the availability of regular, mobile and TV-based computing platforms like Windows, MacOS X, iOS and Android as foundations for software that records and / or reports medical-status information.

The software can be designed to keep a local or cloud-based record and signal to health-carers and/or close relatives and friends if there are abnormal events. In some cases, details can be passed through immediately to the health-care professional who is supervising the patient.

Where do I see this being applicable

I see this technology being applicable for the management of chronic illnesses where the patient can manage the illness themselves with little outside intervention. This may extend to the care of pregnant women who have a low risk of birth complications. Even when the patient must travel to the health-care professional for an appointment, both the professional and the patient are in a better position to know “what’s going on” through the treatment process.

It also adds a sense of dignity to the care and treatment process by allowing one to integrate the management procedures in to their lifestyle without feeling awkward about it. This would benefit younger and middle aged people more so especially when they are encumbered with these illnesses like diabetes.

I see it also benefiting people living in rural areas in many ways. The telehealth technology can allow a specialist based at a small or larger town to manage multiple patients and only have to travel out to attend those at risk. As well, the patient wouldn’t need to travel out to the doctor unless necessary.

It can also assist with the ageing process for seniors who want to live in their own home, live in an “own space” near their relatives such as a granny flat or live in low-needs supported retirement accommodation. Here, the technology can help with supervising medical and other therapies or simply make sure they are OK without intruding on their lifestyle and dignity. In this case, it could augment other technology projects that are in progress or being completed that assist older people with their daily lives.

Similarly, the technology would help with sports medicine in allowing athletes and fitness enthusiasts, along with their trainers, know their limits and how they are performing through their workouts so they can exercise in an optimum way.


I would still like to see the telehealth technologies work as a complement to the personal touch in personal health care rather than distance the patient from the professional. The technologies can be seen as a tool for helping us stay well and independent; as well as conquer distance.

What Sony has to say about entering a “new form of television”


Sony Hopes To Debut “A New Form Of Television” | TechCrunch

My Comments

Here, Sony is raising an issue about entering TV’s new direction. This includes coping with the current marketplace dimension

In the article, Sony’s CEO, Howard Stringer was underlining the ability for his company to be able to ride through rough times and smooth times. He cited the fact that the TV industry was going through a rough time due to economic crisis with customers preferring to buy budget brands or smaller sets if they were in the market for a TV. As I have mentioned before in this site, TVs do have a long service life and are typically “pushed down” when a newer and better set is acquired.

But I would affirm that the video peripherals matter as much as TVs when it comes to developing a video platform. Here, one could replace a DVD player with a Blu-Ray player that supports an interactive-TV platform. Similarly, Sony has integrated their interactive-TV platform in to the PlayStation 3 games console through the use of firmware upgrades.

It would also include the idea of using “other screens” such as the computer, smartphone or tablet as complementary or competing display surfaces. Personally I would see the other screens being able to work in both roles such as personal viewing of video material during a long train ride or finding supporting information on the TV show you are watching on the big screen.

Sony are also in a position to use open standards to build out their video platform rather than reinvent the wheel which they previously have done. This is accomplished through their support for DLNA home media networks and their implementation of Android in their tablet and smartphone devices. Even the VAIO computers work on the Windows desktop operating systems; and they were trialling the Google TV platform in the TV and Blu-Ray player form factor.

But they have contributed to other efforts through the supply of subsystems to technology manufacturers on an OEM basis. Initial examples of this included the supply of colour Trinitron CRTs to Apple for their Macintosh colour monitors to the current supply of LCD screens to other TV manufacturers and even the camera subsystem in the iPhone 4S.

What do you really do if you are trying to establish an integrated video-services platform that uses the many screens that the customer has? Do you need to make it highly-integrated in the way Apple has done or build a platform that can be worked across other devices and designs offered by other manufacturers.

In some ways it depends on the kind of customer you are targeting. Some concepts like what Apple offers would appeal to those who are sold on brand alone whereas other concepts would appeal more to those customers who “know what they are after”.

Internationaler Funkaustellung 2011–Part 2

IFA LogoWelcome back to the second part of my report on the Internationaler Funkaustelluing 2011. In the first part, I had touched on home appliances briefly but had focused on computing technologies like smartphones, tablets, laptops and the home network.

Now I am focusing on consumer electronics which mainly is focused around digital cameras, TV and home-theatre / hi-fi technology.

Consumer Electronics


3D is still being considered a dominant technology with some of the cameras being equipped with two lenses and sensors. As well, Samsung have also fielded a camera with two screens – one on the back and one on the front.

The camera manufacturers are releasing more of the small interchangeable-lens cameras. These are typically in the “non-SLR” style with the screw-on lens mounts. It is leading towards the appearance of more compact cameras with high-factor zoom lenses. Here, these cameras are being pitched mainly as  mainly “bridge-cameras” which exist between the “point-and-shoot” camera and the SLR camera and have many adjustable photography factors including semi-automatic and manual exposure modes.

An issue that may affect the launch of digital photography equipment at this or subsequent IFA shows is the up-and-coming Photokina photo/film/video trade shows. These shows appear in Cologne at the end of September and they are often seen as a major launchpad for anything to do with photography or videography. A valid point may be raised about whether companies with digital photo / video equipment show their equipment at both shows, launching consumer equipment in Berlin and “enthusiast” equipment (DSLRs, high-end camcorders) in Cologne.

Of course, there hasn’t been much interest in using network technology for photo and video equipment when interlinking with computer equipment.

TV and Display Technologies

There are a few key trends that are occurring concerning the television receivers being promoted at the IFA.

One is the DVB-T2 digital-TV standard which is to launch in Germany. This revision of the DVB-T terestrial digital-TV standard will provide for more HDTV with H264 video. It will also allow for advanced interactive TV (HbbTV, VoD) platforms, robust terrestrial reception as well as more services per TV channel.

3D is still a dominant technology with Toshiba and other names promoting glasses-free 3D viewing where their sets use a polarizing screen and support an ersatz 3D effect for regular content. Haier are also using a similar technology for their 3D Internet-enabled set. LG are running 3D TVs that work with cinema-style passive polarizing glasses. ,

For content, Deutsche Telekom  is providing “Entertain 3D” channels as part of their Entertain IPTV service. This requires the  Deutsche Telekom “Entertain” set-top box and access to a VDSL2 next-gen service. There will be the magazine channels as well as highlight footage from Bundesliga football (soccer) matches as well as the “usual suspects” – those popular 3D action and animation films from Hollywood.

Another key trend is Internet-driven smart TV. This is with access to the Social Web, video-on-demand / catch-up TV amongst other interactive-TV services using the home network.

Hama are releasing at this year’s IFA an Android STB with access to full Android Honeycomb service  on the TV screen. This time, the set-top is able to connect to the network via WiFi, or Ethernet.

Samsung are pushing the Social TV agenda. This allows you to view TV and chat on the Social Web at the same time with a button to press to focus on Facebook/Twitter/Google Talk chat streams or TV content. There is also the ability to use a Samsung smartphone or Galaxy Tab as the TV keyboard once you install the appropriate app. Of course, there is a Samsung TV remote that has a QWERTY keyboard and LCD display to facilitate the chat function.

Samsung have also released an app for their Android smartphones and tablets which allows the image on their Smart TVs to be shown on these devices.

Sharp have contributed to the smart-TV race with the AQUOS Net+ app subsystem for their TVs. As well Metz are showing a network-enabled 3D TV with HbbTV broadcast-broadband support and a 750Gb PVR.

There was an increased number of TVs that had the 21:9 aspect ratio being launched at this show. This aspect ration was more about a “cinema-screen” aspect ration that was often used with a lot of movies since the 1950s.

Even the projector scene is going strong at this year’s IFA.

Acer are showing the H9500BD 3D Full-HD home-theatre projector which is to be released October. This unit can work at 2000 ANSI Lumen with a 50000:1 contrast ratio. It fixes the keystone problem that often happens with projectors by using a lens-shift setup rather than digitally skewing the image; as well as a high zoom lens that permits a big image with a short throw and also has wall-colour-correction for projection to non-white-walls  It is expected to sell in Europe for €2499 recommended retail price

Sony are also launching a 3D-capable projector with a 150,000:1 contrast ratio and use of lens-shift as the keystone correction method. The big question that I have about this projector is how bright this projector is in ANSI lumens.

Canon also launched the LV8235 which is an ultra-short-throw DLP projector. Here, this projector can throw a 2-metre (80”) usable image projected with it being positioned at 32cm (1 foot) from the wall or screen.

As well, Sony had used this show to premiere a set of 3D personal video goggles. Here, these glasses show 3D video images on separate OLED screens, mainly for use with personal video players or games systems.

Home Theatre and Hi-Fi

There has been some activity concerning networked home-theatre and hi-fi equipment.

Harman-Kardon are launching a 3.1 HTIB with has an integrated 3D Blu-Ray player and uses a soundbar as its main speaker.

Loewe have used this event to launch the Solist single piece audio system. This has a CD player and access to FM and Internet radio broadcasts as far as I know. It can connect to home networks via WiFi, Ethernet or HomePlug and uses a 7.5” touch screen or Loewe Assist remote control as its control surface.

Sony have launched the SNP-M200 network media player which is the follow on from the SNP-M100, It offers 3D video support and an improved Facebook and Twitter experience. Of course, like the SNP-M100, it has the full DLNA Home Media Network credentials including being a controlled device. They also launched another Blu-Ray player in the form of the BDP-S185 which supports 3D Blu-Ray playback and access to online content.

As well, Pioneer have launched some network-enabled hi-fi equipment including a component network-audio player for use with existing hi-fi setups. Philips are using this show also to launch a Streamiun MCi8080 music system with DAB+ and Internet radio, a CD player as well as network audio. Intenso have launched their Movie Champ HD media player which is one of those media players that play off USB (or the home network). But this one can properly play 3D video in to 3D-enabled TVs.

It is also worth noting that Jarre Technologies is a newcomer to the scene of “worked” audio reproduction technologies. This firm has been set up by Jean Michel Jarre, known for setting the tone of European ambient-music with Equinoxe and Oxygene, and is now following the same path as Dr. Dre’s “Beats Audio” name. Here, they are launching their highly-powerful iPad speaker tower which can work comfortably at 10,000 watts and uses “speaker tubes” but would need a large area to perform at its best. Here, this product is all about proving Jarre Technologies metal and I wonder when there will be premium and multimedia laptop computers that have their audio subsystems tuned by Jarre Technologies on the market and who will sell these laptops.

Germany is now heading towards DAB+ digital radio broadcasting which yields an improvement over the original DAB digital-radio technology that it worked with before. Here, this technology uses AAC audio coding, allows for an increased number of broadcast services per multiplex and, from my experience with the Australian setup as I used many DAB+ enabled Internet radios on review, provides for highly-robust digital radio reception. It may be easier for set manufacturers to launch DAB+ digital radios in to this market due to them having DAB+ radios already on Australian and other DAB+ markets; and UK readers may find that their newer digital radios may be already set up for DAB+ technology even though the UK is working on “original specification” DAB radio.


The Internationaler Funkaustellung 2011 has reinforced the role of the networked home especially as Europe takes to the newer Internet technologies like 4G wireless broadband, IPTV and next-generation broadband service.

Blu-Ray players–they could give more life to older and cheaper TVs


Smart TV – why are Blu-ray players second-class citizens?

My comments

I agree with the principal argument that this article had put forward concerning the availability of the “smart-TV functionality” in video peripherals like Blu-Ray players or network-media adaptors. There is due to a reality that most of the consumer-electronics industry has been missing concerning how people have purchased and owned TV sets; something I, like most of you, have seen for myself.

The reality with TV purchasing and ownership

Since the 1970s, the typical colour television set has been able to enjoy a very long and reliable service life, thanks to transistorisation. This had been underscored with the gradual introduction of electronic tuner subsystems that were more reliable than older mechanical tuner systems like the old “click-click-click” tuning knobs that were common in most markets or the “push to select, twist to tune” button arrays common on TV sets sold in the UK in the 1960s.

This long service life then allowed for a “push-down” upgrade path to exist in a similar manner to what happens with the household refrigerator. Here, one could buy a nicer newer fridge and place it in the kitchen while the older fridge that it was to replace could go in the garage or laundry and act as extra cold storage space for food and drink, such as the typical “beer fridge”. In the case of the TV, this would mean that one would buy a newer better TV, most likely with a larger screen and place it in the main lounge area. Then the original set which was to be replaced by the new set typically ended up in another room like a secondary lounge area or a bedroom or even in a holiday house.

Usually the only reason most households would scrap a TV set would be if it failed beyond repair or was damaged, Even if a set was surplus to one’s needs, it would be pushed off to another household that could benefit.

Some people may think that this practice has stopped with the arrival of the LCD or plasma flatscreen TV, but it still goes on.

Not all TVs are likely to be “smart TVs”

Not all manufacturers are likely to offer network-enabled TVs in their product cycle. This may be due to a focus on picture quality or the ability to build lower-end products to a popular price point.

It also includes sets like TV-DVD combo units or small-size models that are offered at bargain-basement prices. As well, home-theatre enthusiasts will be interested in buying the latest projector rather than the latest “smart TV”.

Addition of extra functionality to existing televisions with video peripheral devices

The consumer-electronics industry has had success with extending the useability of existing television receivers through the use of well-equipped multi-function video peripherals.

The video recorder as a TV-enablement device

The best example of a device enabling older and cheaper TV sets was the video cassette recorder as it evolved through the 1980s. This wasn’t just in the form of recording of TV shows and playback of content held on videocassettes.

It was in the form of improved television viewing due to the TV tuners integrated in these devices. By model-year 1981 in all markets, the typical video recorder was equipped with a reliable electronic TV tuner. As well, all VHS and Betamax video recorders that implemented logic-control tape transports also implemented a “source-monitor” function when the machine wasn’t playing tapes. This would typically have the currently-selected channel on the machine’s tuner available at the machine’s output jacks including the RF output channel that the TV was tuned to.

Here, this setup gave the old TVs a new lease of life by providing them with a highly-reliable TV signal from the VCR’s tuner. In some cases, users could tune to more broadcasts than what was available on the TV set. Examples of this included cable channels received on an older “non-cable” TV in the USA or Germany; channels broadcasting on the UHF band through a mid-70s VHF-only TV in Australia and New Zealand; or access to Channel 4 on a “4-button” TV in the UK due to more channel spaces.

The ability to change channels using the video recorder’s remote control also allowed a person who had a cheaper or older TV to change channels from the comfort of their armchair, something they couldn’t previously do with those sets.

Similarly, some households would run a connection from the video recorder’s AUDIO OUT to their hi-fi system’s amplifier and have TV sound through their better-sounding hi-fi speakers. This was exploited more with stereo video recorders, especially those units that had a stereo TV tuner integrated in them, a feature that gradually appeared as TV broadcasters started to transmit in stereo sound through the 80s and 90s.

How the Blu-Ray player is able to do this

The typical well-bred Blu-Ray Disc player has the ability to connect to the home network via Ethernet or, in some cases, Wi-Fi wireless. This is typically to support “BD-Live” functionality where a user can download and view extra content held on a Blu-Ray Disc’s publisher’s servers in addition to viewing content held on the disc. As well, the Blu-Ray Disc player can connect to ordinary TV sets as well as the HDMI-equipped flat-screen TVs that are currently in circulation.

Some of the Blu-Ray players, especially recent Samsung, Sony and LG models can also pull down media from the DLNA Home Media Network and show it on these TVs. As well, some manufacturers are rolling out some Internet-ended services to these players.

In the same way as the video recorder was able to extend the functionality of the cheaper or older TV set by offering extended tuner coverage, remote control or access to better sound, the Blu-Ray player or network media adaptor could open the world of Internet–ended entertainment to these sets.

What the industry should do

The industry could work towards achieving similar interactive functionality for the network-enabled video peripherals as the network-enabled TVs. They could achieve this through the establishment of a “platform design” with similar applications and capabilities across a consumer-video product lineup. It is infact what Sony is doing for their consumer-video products at the moment with very little difference in interactive-service lineup between their TVs and their Blu-Ray players.

Here, the interactive-TV software is consistent across the whole lineup of TVs, Blu-Ray players, Blu-Ray-equipped home-theatre systems and other video peripherals. The manufacturer may vary the software according to the device’s function by omitting functions relating to particular hardware requirements like screens, optical drives or broadcast tuners in order to make it relevant to the device class. Of course, there could be support for user-attached peripheral devices like USB Webcams, Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, UPnP-compliant printers and the like to extend functionality for particular software applications like video-conferencing.

The software may be fully revised every few years to build in new functionality and accommodate better hardware. It may also be a chance to improve the operation experience for the software concerned. Yet this could maintain the branding and skinning that the manufacturer and software partners do desire.


There is a different reality that exists when buying TV equipment and this function should be supported equally in video peripheral equipment like Blu-Ray players and network media adaptors as in TV sets.