Interactive TV News Round-Up (II): Comcast, Hillcrest Labs, Jinni

--Comcast Unveils Plans to Extend its Pay-TV Offering to the iPad and to Android-Powered Tablets
--Hillcrest Launches Motion-Control System for Connected TV's, Licenses Freespace Tech to SMK
--"Mood-Based" Programming Search-and-Recommendation Specialist, Jinni, Raises $5 Million

Due to the large volume of news coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show, which kicked off Wednesday in Las Vegas, we are covering stories in this issue in summary/round-up form. We anticipate that it will take us several days to catch up with all the news generated by the show: so if your company has sent us a press release or briefed us on an announcement, and you don't yet see your news covered in this issue, please bear with us. Our regular news coverage will return shortly.

  • Comcast on Tuesday cast some light on its plans to extend its service to the Apple iPad and to Android-powered tablet devices. Comcast has "announced plans to enable in-home streaming for live and On Demand content this year on Apple's iPad as well as Android-powered tablets," a press release from the company states. "Later this year," the release continues, "customers will be able to watch live news, TV shows and movies in their homes whenever they want. Comcast also made two more announcements about its Xfinity TV service today. First, Comcast provided details about the play now capability that will be available on the iPad in the coming weeks and which will enable the viewing of On Demand programming on the iPad. Second, Xfinity TV online (www.xfinitytv.com) has added additional features that transform any computer into a powerful search engine and remote control. Comcast plans to roll out its new play now feature, which will enable customers using the popular Xfinity TV iPad app to watch nearly 3,000 hours of On Demand content, including popular movies and hit TV shows, either in the home or on-the-go, including anywhere there is a wireless connection. The initial selection of programs and movies is just the beginning. Comcast plans to bring thousands of additional choices to the iPad in the weeks and months ahead and to add the same functionality and content to Android powered devices later this year. Comcast's Xfinity TV app functions as a television guide, remote control and mobile video player all in one. With it, customers can change TV channels, easily search and browse through their TV and On Demand listings, and program their DVR's. Future releases of the app will include seamless access to social networking sites so customers can share what they're watching with their friends in real time, as well as a 'MyTV' feature that gives customers the ability to send and receive personal recommendations with friends on what to watch. Comcast has also launched a new feature that enables customers to search for their favorite programs and to change channels on a TV set from a computer via XfinityTV.com. The feature enables millions of customers with laptops or desktop computers to browse, search and find TV and On Demand content online and then select and watch it on their TV's or program their DVR's to record programs for later viewing. This feature also transforms any computer into a sophisticated remote control."
  • Motion-control technology specialist, Hillcrest Labs, has launched a "turnkey," embedded motion-control system for connected-TV manufacturers, which it says is designed to support new motion-pointing and gesture-enabled user interfaces for navigating the Web, Internet-based applications and games on televisions. The solution is based on the integration of Hillcrest's flagship Freespace MotionEngine with Broadcom's new BCM35230 digital TV system-on-a-chip (SoC) and its new BMC20730 single-chip Bluetooth solution. "In addition," the company states in its press materials, "at CES, Universal Electronics, the world's leading manufacturer of TV remotes, will showcase a new Freespace and Bluetooth-enabled TV remote control, utilizing the world's first single-chip, digital-output, 3-axis MEMS gyroscope from InvenSense, that is compatible with the new system from Broadcom and Hillcrest. The demonstrations will include a TV user interface optimized for motion pointing, which includes Hillcrest's HoMEcast video application and a Webkit browser engine...Unlike alternative motion control technologies," Hillcrest's press materials continue, "both the new chipset and compatible TV remotes use fully integrated motion sensors that do not require additional external cameras or lightbars in order to control the on-screen viewing experience. In addition, the low-cost Bluetooth-based solution does not require line-of-sight, which enables consumers to control their TV's without the need to aim at the TV. The new system is compatible with a variety of smart-TV platforms including Linux, Android or Google TV-based solutions."
  • In other Hillcrest news: The company has announced that remote control manufacturer, SMK Electronics, has licensed its Freespace motion-control technology for use in current and future products. "SMK has incorporated Hillcrest Labs' Freespace motion technology into innovative remote control designs, including SMK's unique egg-shaped RF remote control, currently being used in Japan to demonstrate Freespace motion technology to a variety of consumer electronics customers," Hillcrest states in its press materials. "SMK provides manufacturers of TV, set-top box, PC, Blu-ray, and digital media players with the ability to quickly and cost-effectively add Freespace motion technology to new products."
  • Jinni--a company that has developed a semantic search-and-recommendation engine which it bills as being based on "content genetics and user psychographics" and as enabling what it calls "mood-based" searches--has announced that it has raised $5 million in a Series B funding round that it says was led by Belgacom and a "tier-one connected-TV manufacturer." VC company, DFJ Tamir Fishman Ventures, which led Jinni's Round A funding, also participated.

 

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