Archives For Industry

verizon-fiostv-vms-client

First shown about a year ago, Verizon formally pulled the wraps off their upcoming FiOS TV media server here at CES. The “VMS” hardware, produced by Motorola, sports 6 tuners and 1 terabyte of storage, and is effectively Verizon’s third generation platform – evolving into a true whole-home DVR hub and client model, as we’re seeing across the industry. Despite seriously beefed up specs, including the ability to run native HTML5 apps like a new leanback YouTube, the set-top is actually more compact than existing FiOS TV Cisco and Motorola DVRs.

Beyond the VMS1100 media server, Verizon also showed off their companion client boxes (IPC1100). These units, which communicate over MoCA, run about the size of a paperback and are being submitted for Energy Star certification. And it sounds like anything you can do on the primary media server, you can accomplish via the client box. Further, unlike the TiVo Mini’s two unit cap, Verizon supports five clients sprinkled about the home simultaneously accessing video content. Oh yeah, it’s got a clock too.

verizon-fiostv-ui

The Media Server represents the foundation of the FiOS TV platform going forward and will continue to see enhancements over time. Phase 1 is obviously getting the hardware out the door. But Phase 2 is where it gets interesting with local transcoding as Verizon relocates the content cloud from Internet-accessed resources into our homes, reducing network variables (and content licensing issues?) for a better customer experience. So, for example, it’s conceivable that the video we now enjoy on the Xbox and iPad would be piped directly from the VMS. Verizon tells me we don’t have long to wait, saying units will arrive “very soon, within a couple months.” And while they’re not quite ready to reveal pricing, they assure me it’ll be competitive and comparable to similar products in the marketplace. As a FiOS TV customer, I guess my only question is… Will it hit before TiVo’s comparable offering and at better rates?

SmartStream Ultra-D 2160p 1

Because 1080 isn’t a big enough number, Stream TV Networks wants to go 2160. Ultra-D 2160p, that is. The proposed new format is higher resolution than HD, but also provides a 3D video effect sans the glasses. According to Stream TV, the technology uses a multi-layer optical system (Um?), and is based on proprietary hardware, software and middleware. Up close, the effect is a bit like staring at one of those Magic Eye pictures from the 1990s, but get about six feet back from the flat-screen display, and the images are gorgeous.

Stream TV says this is the first 3D technology you can watch from any angle,and it’s partnering with several manufacturers (including Pegatron and HiSense) to bring new Ultra-D chips to TVs, laptops and mobile devices. The technology reportedly requires about the same bandwidth as a 1080p video stream, and Stream TV can convert 2D feeds to this new type of 3D video using either a client device in the home – the SeeCube 4K converter box – or a network device called the SeeCube server, which is due out shortly.

In a CES demo this morning, Stream TV showed canned footage with video of Olympic athletes, a city skyline, a tiger in the wild, and more. With the Ultra-D tech, you can control the level of 3D effect you want, causing images to pop more or less depending on your preference. And while still images don’t do justice to any 3D display, I took several photos that at least give a sense of the crispness of the video, and how primary objects are better articulated against their backgrounds.

Oddly, although this morning’s demo was run on a Continue Reading…

Sharp Ultra HD 4K 3D-like display

Sharp is coming out with a long line of products in 2013, but perhaps most interesting in the group is a new series of 4K, Ultra HD TVs set to launch this summer. Using what Sharp calls a “Cognitive Creation Image Processor”, the new TVs will trick your eyes into thinking objects are three-dimensional. As one of the execs on stage at the CES Sharp press conference put it, “it’s like looking out a window.”

I got a brief glimpse of one of the new 3D-like displays this morning, and from my vantage point at the back of a large ballroom, it did indeed appear as if a pot of flowers was popping out of the TV screen. Given the lack of glasses, I’ll take this 3D over the kind hailed at CES events of years past. And from a programmer standpoint, I’m betting there’s a serious bandwidth advantage to fake 3D over the real thing.

Meanwhile, Sharp will also launch an Aquos brand of 4K HD TVs in late 2013. And it’s upgrading the Sharp SmartCentral smart TVs for the year too. SmartCentral is adding full HTML5 and Flash support, and a Super Beam app for sharing content from mobile devices to the Sharp display. More on that trend later. Personally I’d prefer to move TV from my TV to my tablet, but apparently the reverse trend is also taking hold.

blake-hbo-go-hdtv

The Wall Street Journal is out with a report indicating my former employer, and the visionary behind the Slingbox, has landed a new gig:

Microsoft Corp.has acquired a small home-entertainment technology startup to beef up its Xbox unit, according to people familiar with the matter. The company, id8 Group R2 Studios Inc., was created by entrepreneur Blake Krikorian in May 2011. Mr. Krikorian will be joining the Redmond, Wash., software giant with a small team. As part of the deal, Microsoft also acquired some patents owned by the startup related to controlling electronic devices.

Blake’s dabbled and invested in a variety of a projects since moving on from the Echostar-acquired Sling Media, but this latest move is notable as he’s once again assembled a seemingly valuable team and patent portfolio. But, unlike Sling’s exit, R2 Studios is more early gestation – perhaps ripe for nurturing and integration into the ever expanding Xbox ecosystem. Home automation and placeshifting? Sure, why not! Unfortunately, as Ross Rubin tweets, the implication remains that Media Center development has been mothballed.

5 Geeky Gifts Under $50

Mari Silbey —  December 14, 2012 — 3 Comments

As the clock winds down on holiday shopping, here are a few more gift ideas for the geek in your life. And if your loved ones don’t like them, they can always take the return money and buy the latest whiz bang thing after CES in January. (Dave and I are both going, by the way.) Just keep in mind that half the products announced at CES never make it to market, so maybe these gifts are their best bet after all. At $50 or less, they shouldn’t be too hard on your wallet. 

Winegard FreeVision FV-30BB HDTV Antenna

Winegard FreeVision FV-30BB HDTV antenna

Now that OTA TV is making a comeback, it may be time to invest in that HD antenna. The Winegard FreeVision FV-30BB gets good reviews from users on Amazon, and it rings in at a manageable $37.84. Some locations will have a hard time getting OTA signals no matter how good the antenna, but this should boost the chances of a decent signal, and some high-quality, freebie television watching.

iPod Building Block Speakers

iPod Building Block Speakers

Shaped like Legos, but apparently without the commercial naming rights, these iPod docks are a cute, kitschy way to broadcast tunes locally. The iPod Building Block speakers are reportedly compatible with the iPod®mini, iPod®Touch (1st Generation), iPod®nano (1-4th generation), iPod® (3-5th generation), and iPod® Classic. Pick a color (no red or blue in stock, unfortunately), and the speaker dock is yours for only $21.99.  Continue Reading…