Active-TV Technology for iPhone and iPod touch

Active-TV Technology for iPhone and iPod touch
Navigate YouTube

Navigate YouTube available at iTunes App Sore

An easy to use iPhone and iPod touch App that enables both new and advanced YouTube users to get the best from YouTube.

Browse video Standard Feeds, Categories, Channels and Playlists. Then organize new videos into your own favorites and playlists. Make playlists private or public. Subscribe to other user's playlists and video collections for future viewing. Subscribe to videos matching search-words.

Look at publicly viewable favorite videos, playlists and subscriptions based on your YouTube friends, family and contacts. Send and receive video links with YouTube contacts via YouTube video messages.

Search for new videos tagged for your language or geographical region, using local keyboard. Explore for new videos via easy switching of user ID to the owner of interesting videos - then explore their world.

All actions are kept in sync with PC, Mac or Apple-TV access to YouTube. Available at Apple App Store.

active-TV technology for PC

active-TV technology for PC
Windows PC based home network

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

French language internet-video for TV browsers

The Issue: Internet video browsing and viewing at the TV is particularly useful for those trying to access video from outside their geographical location.

Solutions: Several start-ups and established media companies around the world are distributing Internet video feeds viewable on the PC. Some also offer TV-web formatted video, while almost all offer RSS feeds, which can easily be accessed via a TV-web page. This makes it possible to reach a living room TV audience with vast amounts of Internet video, or reach any TV around the home for that matter.

Behind the scene:
Active-TV technology enables low-cost internet video browsing at the TV. With active-TV technology built into the TV, or integrated into a set-top conversion boxes, it is possible to access video channels from around the world.

Some developers have used the Windows Media Center (WMC) SDK during TV-website construction. The WMC SDK extends the familiar website development software with the addition of the MediaCenter Object. The methods or procedures supported by the MediaCenter Object provide controls for playing media on a networked TV. The PC’s browser uses the extensions provided by the MediaCenter Object to correctly process TV-websites features which do not appear in PC-websites. Microsoft initially supplied the MediaCenter Object with the MCE PC. Media Mall provides an alternative yet compatible MediaCenter Object, which can be used with Windows XP or any Extended-PC using a recent version of Windows.

Below is an image of a TV-website from the BBC. The TV-website software makes use of the MediaCenter Object. The BBC site can be accessed by any active-TV technology enabled TV or STB, such as the D-Link DSM-520, via use of the Media Mall-supplied extensions to the supporting PC’s browser.

Using a different approach, a great many internet-video broadcasters are making use of RSS to distribute their video. There is growing demand for reaching a networked TV audience around the home via RSS distribution. This demand is partly satisfied by tools such a TVersity. But there is also interest in a quick way of ‘converting’ RSS feeds to a TV-web page which already contains the necessary MediaCenter Object support. The active-TV technology blogspot has been providing template code for accomplishing this.

The French language site WAT (avec TF1 networks) has a range of interesting videos grouped into themes. Members can produce their own playlists, but unfortunately (unlike YouTube) there is no RSS feed for playlists. The TV-web version of WAT along with other TV-web channels are available for download. Below is a 4x3 TV image of the WAT channel.

BBC News also produces a generic RSS video feed. Below is a 16x9 image of the TV-web channel providing access to the BBC News feeds. The BBC channel and the WAT channel are accessible on any TV.

The examples above are merely demonstrations of what is already possible. Browsing TV-web format sites, or channels, from the TV is just ‘taking off’. Active-TV technology is just one method being developed to accomplishing this; but it is in operation now, is based on open standards, and has little impact on TV cost or stability.

Feedback, corrections and comments welcome. Contact me for more information or support with active-TV technology development.
Daniel Mann

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Social Networking and other Widgets delivered to the TV

The Issue: Widget use on the TV has become an increasingly popular topic. Constructing mini-programs in the form of “widget” chunks allows a user to select and assemble them according to individual preferences.

Solutions: There are several companies offering tools for widget construction. These tools make it easy to use the same widget on the PC desktop, website, social networking homepage or other location. Now these same widgets, when appropriate, can be used on the big TV screen by embedding them into a TV-web page.

Behind the scene: Active-TV technology delivers web 2.0 methods to the TV without requiring that a PC be embedded into the TV. This way, the TV remains an inexpensive, low maintenance, and long lived device; and by making use of a PC somewhere on the home network, widgets and other web technology are made fully available to the TV user.

In the past, widgets have been available to those TV users who connect their TV to the video-out port on their PC. But there has been little demand for a PC in the living room and hence little widget presence on the TV to date. Active-TV technology uses a PC-assisted approach to enable internet video browsing at the TV. Working with the yourminis company (recently acquired by AOL), I have enabled their widgets to appear on the TV browser and therefore on the TV. For example, see the bottom images (for weather and time) on a YouTube TV-web site (or internet video channel) below.

I have expanded the menu system to gain access to an RSS feed for widgets. Yourminis already has RSS feeds for widgets, but I had to expand these feeds to support embedding the widgets into TV-web channels. This is because there is no one currently serving TV home pages - A TV home page is a bit like Google’s a iGoogle PC home page, but for the TV. Yourminis supports embedding widgets into iGoogle, but there is no equivalent mechanism for embedding them into a TV-web page.

This problem is solved via a TV-web page having access to an RSS feed for widgets. Any personalization of the widget, such as colour, time zone or address codes, is stored in the form of cookies associated with the widget. As shown below, the menu normally used for video or photo access is also used for widget selection.

Widget information is available for preview before widget selection, as shown below.

The menu “Settings” page is used to select the widget RSS feed. In the example below, menu entry 3 is used to select yourminis widgets for screen position “widget 1”. This mechanism enables different widgets to be positioned at each widget location. Because each family member can have their own TV-web page setup, each user can have their own widget preferences, based on relevant cookies.

Navigation of the PC-web is via the TV IR remote, not the keyboard of mouse used by PC-web pages. Widgets which require keyboard or mouse interaction are not appropriate for TV-web use. Widgets also have to be larger and clearer, in case they are used by a TV with simple composite video cabling rather than high resolution video using an HDMI cable.

Video channels or individual videos can have click-to-view video advertising links; this is also true for widgets. Not released yet are widgets which interact with the menu system, such as a widget which supports “yes” or “no” voting, or other selective feedback to a video supplier or advertiser. Using the TV IR remote, a user can send a response via the TV’s internet return path.

Widgets associated with social networking interact with PC-web widgets and also support social network communication. One combination is using a laptop PC in the same room as the TV. A TV-web widget can receive messages, but without the support of a keyboard, its response is limited.

Feedback, corrections and comments welcome. Contact me for more information or support with active-TV technology development.
Daniel Mann