Interactive TV News Round-Up (I): Always Innovating, Android, Amino, BBC

--Always Innovating Launches HDMI Dongle to Transform "Dumb TV" into Android-Powered Smart TV
--Amino Showcases Gateway Solutions at CES
--BBC Developing Mood-Based Navigation System for its Programming Archives
--BBC Releases Red-Button Programming Schedule through January 22nd

Due to the large volume of news generated by last week's 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we are covering stories in this issue in round-up/summary format. We anticipate that it will take us several more days to process all the news from 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.

  • At CES last week, Always Innovating unveiled the HDMI Dongle, "a device of the size of a stick that can be plugged into any HDMI port to transform a dumb TV into a smart Internet-connected screen. The HDMI Dongle enables Internet browsing, movie watching and games," the company's press materials continue. "The HDMI Dongle can run Android Ice Cream Sandwich and is compatible with Google TV. The device provides a full-compatible Android experience and any application for this operating system can run on the dongle. The HDMI Dongle can stream and decode from the Internet 1080p H.264 video. The device is compatible with popular services such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Video On Demand. The user interface is controlled with a 9-button remote control for easy navigation, and voice recognition for text input. The accelerometer located in the remote control enables a set of gravity-based games. The remote control also features a NFC chip to offer a tap-to-share experience. The HDMI Dongle is based on the Texas Instruments Cortex-A9 OMAP 4 which can run from 1GHz to 1.8GHz depending on the configuration. It offers 1GB of RAM and a micro SD card for local storage. The WiFi and Bluetooth module enables the device to connect to the Internet and to any Bluetooth-enabled accessories. Always Innovating does not intend to produce the HDMI Dongle but offers it on a licensing basis. The HDMI Dongle is expected to hit the shelves with a first licensee during the summer 2012. The HDMI Dongle can also be used as the heart of a tablet or MID device. An expansion slot features interfaces to camera and LVDS screen which allows to plug a 1920x1080 LCD. The PCB provides all the features of a tablet including WiFi, Bluetooth, battery management, camera and NFC connectivity. Like all other Always Innovating products, the HDMI Dongle is fully Open Source."
  • At CES last week, Amino Communications--which last month announced that Andrew Burke had stepped down as CEO and had been replaced by COO Don McGarva--unveiled what it bills as the first hybrid/OTT media gateway to be powered by Intel's 32nm Intel Atom SoC. "The Amino Freedom Live media gateway will combine dual-core processing power with a range of new enhanced transcoding and encoding capabilities with multiscreen distribution to deliver content seamlessly to TV's, smartphones and tablets around the home," the company states in its press materials. "Visitors to the Intel booth at CES...will be able to watch the Amino Freedom handle a range of content sources--including broadcast, OTT, gaming and user generated content--delivered quickly and seamlessly via a newly created user interface. Uniquely, Amino will also showcase a new feature that delivers high-definition video calling via the TV set. The Amino Freedom includes new video encoding and transcoding capabilities which take raw video and converts it into a high-quality format for multiscreen playback around the home. Other features include: A USB3 high-speed data port will allow users to plug in low-cost HD webcams to enjoy high-definition video calling--a unique feature for both home and enterprise use. A dual Ethernet switch will enable other devices--including existing pay-TV set-top boxes--to connect to the open Internet. WebGL (Web-based graphics library) functionality will allow the creation of new 3D immersible experiences including applications, user interface, electronic program guide and advanced online gaming." At CES Amino also teamed with Digital Keystone to showcase the DK Maelstrom-powered gateway solution running on the Amino hybrid/OTT media gateway. "This powerful combination of hardware and software allows viewers to watch premium live and recorded TV anywhere in the home on any consumer platform," the company states in its press materials. "All content is securely delivered to all devices, without relying on multiple content copies, custom players or applications, while at the same time reducing the burden on service providers...Digital Keystone's Maelstrom consists of the Maelstrom Media Streamer for transcoding and transcription, and the Maelstrom Domain Manager for network optimization and domain management. With Maelstrom, premium TV services are delivered in the native format of each connected device, without downloading any plug-ins, installing any applications, or configuring any custom code. The service provider can easily customize and control their offer, including search, recommendations, advertising and promotions, for a rich and friendly viewer experience."


  • In a posting on the BBC's Research & Development blog, Monday, the corporation's Rosie Campbell provided an update on its efforts to develop a mood-based navigation system for its programming archives (note: the BBC is currently working to make the latter available online). "Sometimes we need 'cheering up', 'calming down' or 'a bit of excitement,'" she wrote. "Whether we notice it or not, we use affective (i.e. mood-based) language pervasively in life. Yet when we browse for media, we find content categorized into rigid, traditional genres, with searching restricted to factual metadata such as title or director. There is little allowance for relative scales or subjectivity. The Multimedia Classification project in Archives Research is attempting to address this by answering the question of how we can use mood as a meaningful navigation tool. It certainly isn't a feckless pursuit: if the BBC archive is ever to be made available to the public, we're going to need some help finding what we want. From hundreds of thousands of hours of programs spanning over 75 years, simply searching for 'comedy' isn't going to get you very far! In fact, in our recent study, the majority of people said they would find it useful to be able to search by mood. I understand if you're skeptical: we're so used to conventional searching, it's hard to imagine a useful alternative. However, we're not suggesting this approach will replace conventional methods, more that it will augment and improve them...So how does it work? The classification system automatically analyzes programs for a range of different video and audio features, such as luminosity, laughter and motion...The results of this are then used to assign each program a rating on a set of mood scales. For example, a program with a high level of motion but not much laughter might score 5/5 on the 'slow-moving to fast-paced scale,' but 1/5 on the 'serious to humorous' scale, meaning it is quick but not very funny (a thrilling drama for instance). The advantage here is that it is then possible to compare different programs based on their mood scores, allowing you to, for example, search for something 'more exciting than "Spooks."' Moreover, the combination of scores on each scale gives the program a kind of mood fingerprint, so the system could recommend programs with similar mood fingerprints to ones it knows you like. We're currently in the process of researching how users might interact with this mood data. A prototype interface we have developed is a 2-dimensional scatter chart, with each axis representing one mood scale. This allows users to view the relative moods of programs as dots plotted on the chart. They can then either pick the mood they want using the sliders, or search using conventional means, using mood as a reference." More information on the BBC's efforts to develop mood-based navigation for its programming archives can be found here.
  • In other BBC news: The corporation has released the schedule of programming and interactive content that will be available via the BBC Red Button service through January 22nd.
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