Interoperability and Simplicity the Key Trends at Connections 2008
Hillcrest demonstrated an accelerometer-based remote control technology that allows a user to interface with graphics on a TV by, essentially, pointing at them. Riding the popularity of the Wii, and anticipating the launch of the iPhone 3G, the company says that pointing is the most natural way for humans to select what they want, and that children point to express a want well before being able to talk. We’re not sure the average consumer wants technology dumbed down to something a 6-month-old child can master, but the simplicity of movement and lack of excess buttons, combined with a clean GUI, made the experience far better than the typical multifunction remote.
Lastly, ZeeVee demonstrated a PC-to-TV technology for live streaming of any internet-based video. Like the original SlingBox solution, a separate box is required, but only one is needed per internet connection, so multiple TVs can share the feed. An advantage claimed by ZeeVee is the location of the box, which sits along side the PC, rather than the TV, arguably reducing clutter in the living room. The technology works by compressing internet video into MPEG-2, sending it over coaxial cable like analog or digital cable TV, and then remodulating the signal into QAM. While an intriguing solution, it has two potential shortfalls: concatenation (or excessive artifacting from transcoding internet video from one format to MPEG-2) and the fact that it requires a TV with a built in QAM tuner, currently limiting the reachable number of households in the U.S., and certainly limiting the geographic reach.
Our assessment of the Connections conference is that the various delivery options have matured. For all that, though, the consumer may end up being the ultimate winner, as the voice of reason that the consumer offers is beginning to be heard. With a growing plethora of devices that have media on them that can be delivered around the house via streaming, and with a variety of wired or wireless paths into their house, the consumer "just wants it to work." Until there is agreement between the competing standards—which each own a particular pathway in terms of delivery technologies—the consumer is left having to choose between technologies that may have a lifespan shorter than a VHS tape.