Blu-ray and Yahoo inject the Web into television
Coming to a TV set near you: IMs, eBay, Wikipedia, and widgets.
Reclining on a couch, Disney executive Dave Hollis is proudly showing off the family room of the future. It’s not a theme-park Tomorrowland exhibit even though the chairs – marshmallow thrones, really – look like they belong on the bridge of Captain Picard’s Enterprise.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
At the other end of the room, located in an office building, is a second-generation Blu-ray movie player that may fundamentally change the nature of home entertainment.
Today’s demonstration disc, an imminent rerelease of “Sleeping Beauty,” boasts a high-definition picture that makes traditional DVDs look as two-dimensional as a Mondrian painting. Yet its prime selling point is a Web-connected system called BD-Live that allows for multimedia interactivity.
For example, you can invite other households with Blu-ray players to watch the movie at the same time. The two players would automatically lock in sync, allowing viewers to send each other instant messages on the TV screen by typing on a Blackberry, laptop, or the remote control. Viewers also can compete in movie-related quizzes with others across the country. They can send and receive video messages that pop up as a picture-in-picture during the movie.
In short, the Blu-ray player turns your TV set into a social network built around a viewing experience.
“We’re hopeful that, as every studio develops and leverages the functionality of BD-Live, that we can make a very compelling argument for mom that it’s not too technical, and safe for her, and it’s something that really plays to the multitasking nature of her kids today,” says Mr. Hollis, whose title – senior vice president of worldwide product management – probably doesn’t fit onto a regular-size business card.
The way the entertainment industry sees it, tomorrow’s DVDs won’t be the only new form of interactive entertainment. Broadcast television will also include interactive features that go way beyond just selecting the camera angle on a football game. Film and TV companies believe the “Guitar Hero” generation, already accustomed to toggling between multiple applications online, will demand Web-connected elements that give them power over how they watch TV. The era of television as a passive medium may be about to end.
“The TV of tomorrow will absolutely include social networking,” says Tracy Swedlow, editor in chief of interactivetvtoday.com. “Instant messaging technology will be pervasive across all video platforms. I’m seeing people build applications that support Twitter [microblogging] across set-top boxes and the Internet. And, also, I’m seeing people develop applications that support Flickr, Facebook, and all the rest of those social-networking platforms.”
Late in August, Yahoo and Intel announced plans for the Widget Channel, a TV application that will bring Internet features to the television in 2009. The name is perhaps deceptive. It’s not really a channel, per se, but a ticker-shaped toolbar at the bottom of the screen with multiple miniapplications that can be expanded to sidebar size or to fill the entire screen.