Innovative Concept: Sony Developing Subtitle Glasses for Moviegoers

  • Sony is developing special subtitle-enabled glasses that could be in UK movie theaters as early as next year.
  • According to the BBC, one in six people have some level of deafness and are not being served well by the movie industry. In fact, many film fans with hearing issues wait for films to be released on DVD when subtitles are available.
  • “What we do is put the closed captions or the subtitles onto the screen of the glasses so it’s super-imposed on the cinema screen, [making it look] like the actual subtitles are on the cinema screen,” explains Tim Potter of Sony.
  • “The good thing about them is that you’re not refocusing. It doesn’t feel like the words are really near and the screen is far away. It feels like they’re together,” said test subject Charlie Swinbourne, who is hard of hearing.
  • “It was a great experience,” he added. “I think it’s a massive opportunity to improve deaf people’s lives and I think there’s great hope that this would give us a cinema-going future.”
  • If the glasses prove popular in the UK, we should expect to see them in wider availability in the near future.

BBM Music Service: Too Little, Too Late?

  • Research In Motion may roll out BBM Music, a new music service designed to work with BlackBerry Messenger, as early as this week.
  • RIM has nearly completed deals for the service with Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group, Sony Corp.’s Sony Music Entertainment, Access Industries Inc.’s Warner Music Group, and EMI Group Ltd.
  • Subscribers would only get access to 50 songs but they can share them with other Blackberry Messenger users.
  • The service will reportedly cost less than $10/month and is not intended to compete with the likes of iTunes or Spotify. “Instead, the BlackBerry service is supposed to help younger users ‘customize’ their phones and share their songs with friends.,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

Lucasfilm and Sony Pictures Imageworks Release CG Interchange Format

  • Lucasfilm and Sony Pictures Imageworks unveiled Alembic, a computer graphics interchange format, this week at the SIGGRAPH Conference in Vancouver. Version 1.0 is now available for download.
  • According to Carolyn Giardina of The Hollywood Reporter, Alembic is “an open source system aimed at helping VFX companies easily store and share complex animated scenes across facilities, regardless of what software is being used.”
  • Sony Pictures Imageworks reports Alembic enables its artists to work 48 percent faster while using significantly less disc space.
  • At SIGGRAPH, leading software suppliers including Autodesk, Luxology, The Foundry and Side Effects are showing Alembic support for their top products.

Manufacturers Team Together to Standardize 3D Glasses

  • Panasonic, Samsung and Sony are throwing their support behind XPAND’s 3D glasses in an effort to create some market standardization.
  • XPAND’s active shutter glasses would also become the standard for computers and home projectors.
  • Development of the glasses under this new initiative will not begin until September so we may not see them on the market until next year, but Gizmodo suggests they will be backwards-compatible with all 2011 Sony, Samsung and Panasonic active shutter 3D TVs.
  • From the press release: “To-date, active 3D technology has proven to be the most popular choice for consumers in the 3D TV market. According to the NPD Group, Active 3D technology took an average of 96 percent share of the U.S. 3D TV market in the first half of this year; and this Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative will help further drive consumer adoption and understanding of active 3D — the technology that provides the clearest and most immersive 3D experience available.”

Amazon Acquires Video Technology Firm Pushbutton

  • Amazon has acquired UK-based Pushbutton, an interactive TV enterprise that builds apps and services.
  • Pushbutton is best known for its version of Lovefilm for Sony Bravia TVs and the PlayStation 3. Lovefilm, purchased by Amazon in January, was “basically the Netflix of Europe.”
  • The company also created the Planit test app that creates personalized video collections based on TV and VOD viewing habits. The app could possibly be incorporated into Amazon Instant Video (which currently offers more than 90,000 movies and TV shows).
  • The acquisition could also help Amazon create video apps for its tablet rumored to be launched later this year.
  • In related news, Amazon recently signed a deal with NBC Universal to show Universal movies through Amazon Prime Instant Video — and a deal with CBS to stream content from its back catalog, including old “Star Trek” episodes.

Sony Experiments with Headgear for VR Gaming

  • Sony Computer Entertainment may launch a 3D headset for virtual reality-type games in the future.
  • The head-mounted display was first introduced during the company’s CES press event in January, but now Sony is reportedly working on developing it for more than just viewing passive entertainment.
  • The device features twin 720p OLED displays (one for each eye) and 5.1 surround sound.
  • Mick Hocking, group studio manager for Sony Europe, said the 3D headset can provide an immersive experience for games (and it is worth mentioning that a number of Sony Computer Entertainment studios fall under his command).
  • “The head-mounted display has twin-OLED screens; very high quality. At the moment it’s just a head-mounted display; the head isn’t being tracked — but that’s something we’re doing R&D on,” Hocking explained. “We’re working with a couple of games at Sony that are experimenting with virtual-reality-type experiences.”

Sony Computer Entertainment Discusses Long Term 3D Strategy

  • Sony’s Mick Hocking talks about what they’ve learned about 3D in the last year at Sony Computer Entertainment. Hocking has been responsible for spearheading the 3D games enterprise.
  • The main lesson involves the need to educate developers in how to produce quality 3D. “We’ve actually now got a guide with 10 points for producing technically correct 3D, it’s our 3D 10 Commandments if you like, and we also have lots of resources now to help developers creatively with 3D as well.”
  • Last year 3D had a “wow factor.” This year there are many 3D capable devices becoming available.
  • Sony has 50 million 3D-enabled PlayStation 3 units and over 50 3D games in the market. In addition, there are 3D Blu-ray, 3D MP4s and 3D Camcorders and 3D HDTVs. Sony may look to build 3D on a handheld. Virtual reality may come back with Sony’s head-mounted, twin-OLED 3D display.
  • Despite what critics are describing as waning interest from consumers, Hocking emphasized that 3D remains a long term strategy for Sony.

Sony to Release its First Two Tablet PCs this Fall

  • Sony offered up some additional details about its first two tablets in a New York press event this week. The S1 and S2 were initially introduced in April in Japan.
  • On Wednesday, the company announced that AT&T will serve as the exclusive U.S. cellular-data provider for the S2 model.
  • The foldable S2 features dual 5.5-inch screens and will operate via Wi-Fi as well as AT&T’s 3G and HSPA+ 4G networks. According to TWICE: “When the S2 is held vertically like a book, each screen can display separate pages from a book downloaded from Sony’ e-book store.”
  • The S1 model will be Wi-Fi only and feature a 9.4-inch screen. Both tablets will include preinstalled Adobe Flash. Sony execs explained that additional technical specs are being saved for the fall launch.
  • Both models are based on the Android Honeycomb OS. Prices, however, have yet to be announced.

3D Experience Delivers On Demand Programming to Bravia HDTVs

  • This week Sony launched “3D Experience” for its Bravia line of 3D-capable LCD TVs. The free service offers 3D trailers, promotional video clips and trial content.
  • The company hopes that 3D Experience will serve as a step forward in providing consumers with interesting 3D content, the lack of which has been a common complaint.
  • Initial content includes “The Green Hornet” trailer, highlights from the FIFA Women’s World Cup and clips from 3net, Sony, Discovery and IMAX.
  • Sony pledges to “further expand the content line-up and promote ‘3D Experience’ among content holders as a forum through which to showcase their 3D offerings.”
  • 3D Experience is currently available in the United States, Canada, Germany, the UK and France.

Hacker Group Anonymous Targets Apple Online Data

  • Apple has joined Sony and Fox News in the growing list of companies experiencing recent security breaches.
  • In what appears to be a warning salvo, 27 user names and encrypted passwords from an Apple website were reportedly posted online over the weekend along with a warning of future attacks from hacker group Anonymous.
  • The hacker group posted a list of data supposedly taken from an Apple Business Intelligence website. Apple has not commented on this.
  • Anonymous hacker group, which linked to this leak in a Twitter post, threatens that Apple could be a target of its attacks.
  • Anonymous is running “antisec,” an operation that threatens government, law enforcement and corporations.

Google Misses Out on Nortel Patent Portfolio

  • Google missed out on the $4.5 billion auction for Nortel’s patents, losing to a consortium made up of Apple, Microsoft, EMC, Ericsson, RIM, and Sony.
  • Google’s loss of the patent portfolio puts its Android platform at a disadvantage, and the company will not have access to over 6,000 patents covering a range of technologies.
  • It has been reported that Google may respond with a Restraint of Trade suit in an attempt to force the consortium to license some or all of the patents.
  • The consortium’s participants will likely take key patents for their own use. For example, Apple’s $2 billion may give it ownership of Nortel’s LTE (4G) patents.

Yahoo! Connected TV Claims 8 Million Devices and 140 Apps

  • Yahoo! Connected TV has over 140 apps and will be introducing the Y! Connected TV Store to sell apps on a 70/30 percent revenue sharing model.
  • Yahoo! made a widget development kit available that provides publishers the opportunity to build new apps.
  • The company is rolling out broadcast interactivity that tailors ads based on viewer interests.
  • Device control technology allows television interactivity with smartphones and tablets.
  • Watch in 2012 for the platform to appear in new TVs by Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, LG and Vizio.

Phil Harrison: Apple Will Be the Games Industry

  • Edge Magazine speaks with Phil Harrison, former president of Sony Computer Entertainment’s Worldwide Studios, and recently appointed advisory board member of cloud-based streaming game service Gaikai.
  • Harrison answers questions on the future of gaming and suggests the following projections: Games will rely increasingly upon social networks; free-to-play will become the predominant business model in 20 years; local storage will disappear; music, film and television will be consumed like a utility and browsers will replace consoles (in the wake of a next-generation browser war).
  • On the future of non-physical media: “If you live in Korea, it’s already happened, if you live in China, it’s already happened. That’s an easy prediction to make: there is undoubtedly a generation of kids alive on the planet today who will never purchase a physical media package for any of their digital entertainment.”
  • On Apple’s impact on the market: “At this trajectory, if you extrapolate the market-share gains that they are making, forward for ten years – if they carry on unrestrained in their growth, then there’s a pretty good chance that Apple will be the games industry.”

E3 2011: Pre-Show Announcements from Sony and Microsoft

The 3-day Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) kicks off today at the Los Angeles Convention Center. E3 is a professional trade event with a focus on electronic gaming (no longer open to the general public) that draws CE manufacturers, business partners, news media and industry analysts from 80 countries. Yesterday’s pre-show press events featured some interesting announcements from Sony and Microsoft. Today, the big news should come from Nintendo, when it unveils its next-gen Wii console (watch it live starting at 9:00 AM PDT).

Microsoft began by introducing new Xbox 360 features and games (Microsoft has sold 55 million Xbox 360s globally to-date, thanks in part to the successful Kinect motion sensor technology). Next up: voice-activated search via Bing will be available for the Xbox enabling users to sort through Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and other sites via voice commands, minimizing the need for the remote control. “You no longer have to navigate through the menus to find content,” said Mark Whitten, corporate VP of Xbox Live.

Whitten also announced that the Xbox will incorporate a live TV service in the fall. Few details were offered, other than to say that more content partners will soon be added. For the gamers, Microsoft premiered the trailer for the next installment of the Halo video game series, which expects a 2012 release (Gamespot has the trailer plus an interesting commentary). Microsoft also demonstrated new games and innovations utilizing its Kinect technology.

Sony began its Monday evening press conference with an apology to customers, video game developers and retailers regarding the recent hacker attacks that hit 70 million user accounts. Jack Tretton, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, explained that activity on the PlayStation Network is now back up to 90 percent from what it was prior to the data breach.

Tretton also discussed the PlayStation’s growing success as the leading Netflix streamer (according to Sony, the PS3 accounts for 30 percent of video streamed via the service). Engadget reports this should come as no surprise: “…consoles far outpace other TV connected streamers in install base, and between the Xbox 360, Wii, and Sony’s box, the PS3 is the only one that lets you watch without an additional subscription and in HD.” In addition to the Netflix news, Sony announced a new partnership that will provide access via the PS3 to more than 12,000 video on-demand movies and TV shows from Best Buy-owned CinemaNow.

Sony also showcased a collection of 3D products and games, including an interesting new product bundle that features a 24-inch active shutter 3D display and 3D glasses. Engadget noted in its initial hands-on eval: “The dual-full-screen trick will only work with PlayStation 3 games specifically programmed to make use of the feature, and although none have been announced yet, we wouldn’t be surprised if pack-in title Resistance 3 is compatible. Staff couldn’t say if the games featured in the demo video, Motorstorm Apocalypse and Wipeout, would be updated to support this feature. While the demo units we saw performed their trick reasonably well, visible ghosting and flat, muted colors give us some reservations about that competitive $499 price tag.”

Sony’s biggest announcement, however, was its new handheld device, PSP follow-up the PlayStation Vita. Touting a 5-inch multitouch OLED display with rear touch pad (and front and rear cameras), the Vita will sell for $249.99 (Wi-Fi-only) and $299.99 (Wi-Fi/3G). Engadget was especially impressed with the “monstrous” OLED display and the dual analog sticks (“they completely blow away the original PSP’s analog nub”). Both models will be available exclusively through AT&T toward the end of 2011.

Related Engadget post: “Microsoft sells 55 million Xbox 360 consoles, claims that’s consoles history” (6/3/11)

Related CNET post: “E3 2011: Live TV coming to Xbox this fall” (6/6/11)

Related PC Magazine article: “E3: Sony Apologizes for Outage, Pitches 3D Display, PS Vita” (6/6/11)

Related Engadget post: “Sony’s 24-inch PlayStation 3D display first hands-on!” (6/7/11)

Related Digital Trends article: “Sony 3D Display could revolutionize 2D gaming” (6/7/11)

Related Engadget post: “PS3 claims the lead in Netflix streaming, adds VOD from Best Buy’s CinemaNow” (6/6/11)

Related Engadget update (with videos): “Sony’s PlayStation Vita: a closer look (update: burning questions answered)” (6/7/11)

Related Engadget post: “Sony’s PlayStation Vita official: $249 for WiFi, $299 for 3G” (6/6/11)

Related Engadget post: “Sony’s PlayStation Vita: first hands-on impressions” (6/6/11)

Related Wired article: “With New Hardware Far Away, E3 Expo is Thin on Innovation” (6/3/11)

MeeGo Smart TV aims to Combine TV Services with One Set-Top Box

A new software platform developed for television by the MeeGo open-source community (hosted by The Linux Foundation) is expected to launch as early as next month. MeeGo Smart TV 1.2 was developed in order to enable service providers to combine pay TV, apps, video and a variety of other content in a unified set-top box. According to MeeGo, “This release provides a solid baseline for device vendors and developers to start creating software for various device categories on Intel Atom and ARMv7 architectures.”

The MeeGo Smart TV platform is based on the MeeGo 1.2 release that came out last week, just prior to the MeeGo Conference in San Francisco (May 23-25). MeeGo TV hopes to succeed where others have failed regarding efforts to fuse TV and the Web by remaining open to applications from a multitude of developers.

“What people don’t want is a browser on their TV,” explained MeeGo TV Architect Dominique Le Foll at the MeeGo Conference. “Instead, just as on a mobile phone, consumers prefer to use apps that are optimized for the device.”

CIO.com reports: “The MeeGo team is not alone in recognizing this. Even TV manufacturers, including Sony and Vizio, are trying to build up stores of apps and widgets that can be used on their sets. But MeeGo’s openness gives it advantages over other options for connected TVs, Le Foll said. Previous TV-Web systems have been based on set-top boxes with traditional embedded operating systems, which are difficult and expensive for service providers to update and maintain. By contrast, MeeGo TV is maintained by a community of developers, organized on the model of the Linux community and managed by the Linux Foundation.”

The MeeGo press release outlines the anticipated development schedule: “MeeGo development continues forward on a six-month cadence, with MeeGo 1.3 scheduled to be released in October, 2011. Many new features targeting MeeGo 1.3 have already been accepted in MeeGo Featurezilla. The development tree for MeeGo 1.3 is open and we are starting to integrate new components now.”

Interesting history of the project from The Linux Foundation (pdf format): “Introduction to the MeeGo Project”

One-year anniversary overview from The Linux Foundation (pdf format): “12 Months Since the Project Announcement: Where Are We and What’s New in MeeGo1.1?”

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