Think IOT + Trakt + Shazam for video

Here’s one for anybody to take on…

Imagine a device like Amazon’s echo which ambiently shares what you are watching and also at what point…

It would operate similar to Trakt.TV’s live progress but rather than be constrained to an online web service, it would be a physical connected thing (IoT) which uses acoustic fingerprint technology similar to Shazam to automatically recognise what you are watching and where you currently are.

This is essential as on-demand viewing is changing the way we watch and consume media. This similar in concept to BBC prototype the Olinda. Think trakt crossed with Shazam and Olinda.

Whipclip reminded me of this, but I have been using Yatse with  Kodi or the Chromecast to share the shows I’m currently watching.  But I’d like to share the part of the video I’m watching really… This causes some issue with spoilers, but that could be worked out if you knew the episode and position of the person who is looking.

Lazyweb… make it be!

 

Google buys a Nest

Well well, remember when Kevin Rose interviewed Matt Rogers from Nest… very telling indeed

It just hit and everyone on twitter is saying Google buying Nest for 3.2 Billion dollars is far too much.

I think its high but not insane.

Here’s why… Google has been a data service for a long while, they aimed to revolutionise the mobile market, kicked started the driverless car thing, recently bought Motorola’s manufacturing arm and now there making a real play for the internet of things by buying Nest. They also did this before Apple got there polished hands all over them. I’m actually surprised they didn’t do something in this area already.

The internet of things powered by the juggernaut of cloud based data and logic is something closer to the reality of the semantic web (or even the singularity dare I say it) than anything before it.

Can you even imagine the data, usage patterns and algorithms which will be built. And its all in the home! Trust me 3.2 Billion isn’t too bad.

Scary or exciting?

Who knows but like Google Now it will divide opinion. The best services always do.

As for the big price tag? Well like Youtube, I’m sure in years to come it will look like a total steal.

Chromefastic

Chromecast on my TV

I bought 2 chromecasts for me and my parents. The chromecast for me was to cover those couple times when I can’t get something to play on xbmc. And I won’t lie I want to hack around with it too.

For my parents its a serious gift because I know the chromebook they have is useful but they don’t really make use of the streaming media feature which I think they may actually like in the end. The idea of having to watch stuff on a small screen is never going to go down well my parents but to relive strictly again on HDMI channel 2 won’t be so bad. Even if they use it one in a while its not a bad buy.

Hopefully they will make use of it like how there finally making use of the chromebook.

So I fired mine up and was up and running in 5mins tops. The setup is simple and quick and while I was waiting for updates to download, I put the chromecast apps on my laptop, tablet and phone.

Its a elegant device and the standby screens are just as beautiful. Can’t wait to see more support but right now it feels a lot like the various xbmc browser extent ions which allow you send xbmc a URL. Of course some URLs xbmc can’t playback because their encrypted while deals have been done to make it work with the chromecast. Also up till recently xbmc remote URL throwers were somewhat buggy. Yaste solved this and much more.

Chromecast has cross over appeal and may be too cheap not to just have plugged into a HDMI input?

To answer the question I had, ages ago. Yes the Chromecast works in the uk without any modifications. It also worked on my Linux PC running chrome and my rooted tablet running CyanogenMod.

So threes nothing stopping you getting one or more… 🙂

Your smart TV could be spying on you?

LG전자, ‘CES 2014 혁신상’ 15개 수상

How ironic that there is an article suggesting we should stop trying to make the TV smart.

From friends on Facebook, it seems clear LG smart TVs are spying on their owners.

I found a rather creepy corporate video advertising their data collection practices to potential advertisers. It’s quite long but a sample of their claims are as follows:

LG Smart Ad analyses users favourite programs, online behaviour, search keywords and other information to offer relevant ads to target audiences. For example, LG Smart Ad can feature sharp suits to men, or alluring cosmetics and fragrances to women.
Furthermore, LG Smart Ad offers useful and various advertising performance reports. That live broadcasting ads cannot. To accurately identify actual advertising effectiveness.

In fact, there is an option in the system settings called “Collection of watching info:” which is set ON by default.  This setting requires the user to scroll down to see it and, unlike most other settings, contains no “balloon help” to describe what it does.

At this point, I decided to do some traffic analysis to see what was being sent.  It turns out that viewing information appears to be being sent regardless of whether this option is set to On or Off.

I kind of thought this kind of thing was going to happen. Although LG’s response is frankly shameful. Having a always on LAN connection is just too tempting for these big companies. With my Toshiba smart TV, I had to read a long EULA before I could use the TV, I had a read of most of it and there was some parts about relaying information back to Toshiba. The TV channel viewing I don’t really care too much about because 90% of the time I’m watching XBMC not live TV. What is worrying however is sending the details of a USB or mass storage device’s details.

I made an even more disturbing find within the packet data dumps.  I noticed filenames were being posted to LG’s servers and that these filenames were ones stored on my external USB hard drive.  To demonstrate this, I created a mock avi file and copied it to a USB stick.

This is out of order and got to be an invasion of privacy…

With that in mind, would you trust them with cameras and microphones?

Good pointer for a couple of projects I’m working on including Perceptive Media and the mentioned here and there iot Signals project. Back to the wired piece

Bottomline: The TV ecosystem is waiting to be created. But consumer electronics companies won’t be the ones to create it.

This will take more than hardware expertise. It will require a service that controls the consumer device. Most importantly, it will require mutually beneficial relationships and data exchange between the service provider and content providers to enable a new business model for video distribution.

I certainly agree with the first part… consumer electronics don’t get it, and this LG spying story proves this.

Torrents & Magnets with dropbox

Bit torrent is changing if you hadn’t noticed already…

Torrent files are going the way of cds while magnet links are taking over.

When you download a .torrent file, you’re essentially downloading a small file that contains information on the larger files you want to download. The torrent file tells your torrent client the names of the files being shared, a URL for the tracker, and more. Your torrent client then calculates a hash code, which is a unique code that only that torrent has—kind of like an ISBN or catalog number. From there, it can use that code to find others uploading those files, so you can download from them.

A magnet link does away with the middleman. A magnet link is essentially a hyperlink containing the hash code for that torrent, which your torrent client can immediately use to start finding people sharing those files. Magnet links don’t require a tracker (since it uses DHT, which you can read more about here), nor does it require you to download a separate file before starting the download, which is convenient.

Magnet links are certainly a lot better in many cases, the piratebay demonstrated this by fitting the whole site into a 90meg file. But I have a problem which I don’t seem to be able to find a answer for…

Torrent files + Dropbox is a killer combination, it means no matter where you are as long as you got a internet connection you can fire up your torrent system without messing with firewalls, etc. As we move to Magnet links, that infrastructure just crumbles and everyone seems to suggest the hole in the firewall solution.

So if anyone knows a better way to replicate dropbox + torrents or a solution which doesn’t require punching a hole in my firewall, I’m all ears, like many people…

XBMC and Fan Art romps onwards

XBMC Fan Art logos

Found via the latest XBMC blog post.

Fan Art TV

…Joins the already amazing… The TVDB and The Movie DB, as great places to collect FanArt and add them to the already amazing XBMC experiences. Literary the XBMC guys and community are innovating like crazy and it doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon. Total Kudos to this amazing project, I can’t imagine consuming media without it.

These additional features would be dramatically less useful if not for fanart.tv. Fanart.tv is a crowd-sourced website, much like thetvdb and TMDb, designed to provide all the additional little features that we each would have to spend hours amassing on our own. Kode, the fanart.tv developer, is always appreciative of additional art or art requests, and asks only that you follow the rules that may be found here.

Its also worth metioning from the other end of the scale, the amazing Trak.tv and Sharethe.tv. Think of them as the last.FM of Films and TV.

When you look at other media centres, they just look plain and boring in comparison… There’s certainly something about making customising simple and easy which is very compelling…

What TV needs now…

Television

This is the kind of thing I think about a lot in my job at the BBC. I’m very lucky to be stationed with a fantastic group of like minded people and a hierarchy upwards which I do respect. (Not many people can say that).

So when I explain to people what I do, I tend to make some reference to researching trends and watching the hackers scratch there own itches. It doesn’t sound that exciting to the general public or potential dates but you all know how excited I get about it. Anyway the point of this un-scientific test is I’m hoping to do more stuff like this. In actual fact I actually threw this idea around as a project a while ago. Its great to know we’re not the only one thinking about this stuff.

During a panel at our TVnext summit yesterday, we showed a video with highlights from a recent experiment. For this experiment, we had invited several families to give up their cable and instead use a “connected TV” device for one week following last Christmas.

The results might sound surprising but to be honest, I could have guessed most of them from the time I’ve spent with the hackers.

Nicely Iiya broke it down the learning into some nice digestible pieces, something I certainly need to learn to do much better.

While our sample was by no means representative, the results of our experiment point us toward some real issues that one should consider when thinking about the future of the “connected TV” technologies.

One finding that is probably obvious in retrospect is that TV is invisible until it’s shut off. It’s a bit like walking: you are aware of the direction in which you are headed but you don’t really focus on the individual steps until you come across an unusual terrain. The exclusively on-demand nature of the devices we tested is just such an unusual terrain that makes you think not only about “where” but also about the specifics of “how”.

The devices demand a lean-forward involvement with what has been traditionally considered a lean-back medium, and this requirement proved disconcerting to many when it lasted longer than the usual bursts of involvement with their DVRs or video-on-demand channels.

The Paradox Of Choice

Constantly having to pick what to watch next was daunting not only because it interrupted the usual flow of TV-time activities in the house or required interacting with unfamiliar interfaces but also because of the cognitive load involved in considering all of the numerous content alternatives. “I don’t want to have to think about it” was one of the strongest sentiments we’ve captured in our interviews. As with “the paradox of choice” phenomenon that describes how broadening the range of options leads to a decrease in overall consumption, we saw how families gave up on watching TV altogether when they couldn’t decide what it is that they wanted to watch. This problem is serious enough for Netflix to award a million-dollar prize for a better way to tell people what they should watch next; it didn’t seem the problem was sufficiently addressed by any of the devices.

The paradox of choice gets stronger and stronger the more options there are. Even in my own behavior, I tend to end up watching films which are on TV although I got the HD version with Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound on my home server within 1 minutes reach.

In actual fact, i’m going to from now on make the choice to move over to my own version when I see a duplicate on TV which has me interested.

Expectations

People have well-formed expectations about how a TV should work, and the devices didn’t seem to confirm well to these mental models. Surfing TV channels is seamless; “tasting” unfamiliar on-demand shows includes picking them from different menu categories and waiting for them to buffer first (and often paying for them up-front). This latency is tolerated in exchange for high-consideration longer-form content but it becomes too much of a friction when all one wants is the “in-n-out” material.

Agreed, the interface on most of the on-demand devices are either hideous or non-intuitive. But there are those which take a risk and try new things. The world of hardware moves very slowly and so we won’t see much change from most of the set top makers. However there has been more development in the space. Some of the forward looking makers are buying or partnering with creative software developers who are creating the rich and intuitive interfaces using just software.

Usability

The lack of search spanning multiple video services on a single box was a usability flaw that stood out among other complaints that could be attributed to our users’ brief experience with unfamiliar technology. From the users’ perspective, there is no reason why they had to search the Netflix, Amazon On Demand and other services individually while looking for a particular piece of content on a single device.

Agreed, its all a bit of a mess at the moment. different guides and different structures. Even if there was a global search it would be one heck of a job trying to communicate the different options available to the audience.

Its a fantastic challenge and to be honest, one of the many reasons why I love my job.

Virtual goods on display

I was talking to Si Lumb on one of our short get togethers (really need to get together more with him, as we always cover so much)

We got talking about many things including… [1][2][3][4]

ideas on how virtual wardrobes, bookshelves and DVD racks are an area ripe for a startup UIs for filtering, sorting and organising are in massive need of a makeover, as digital browsing is awful. where are the "experience" adventures, like the film "The Game"? Surely there’s a market? Why can’t movies make more of the "trial" approach – give away the opening scene instead of trailer lies

 How conditioning to multitask/multiscreen makes watching passively feel antiquated. Why Red Dead Redemption is an amazing achievement yet inaccessible to girls because of gunplay & controls. On game completion: why Portal is something you have to play the whole way through and deserves the time. TV box sets and why 6 seasons of 25 episodes is a real commitment – and is it really worth it?

In short we covered a lot including some of the thoughts we had on Digitalization of the DVD rack.

The problem is when you have mainly digital or virtual goods, how do you show and share your collection with friends and family?

I’ve been thinking about how to show my media collections in the real world. On XBMC, there is a great screensaver which shows all the fan art/backdrops on your machine as a slow slideshow. Great but I don’t always have my TV on and energy wise its hardly very efficient. So I’ve been thinking, since I learned about sharethe.tv. It might be possible to push this information to a digital photoframe.

In actual fact, I had planned to buy a special wifi connected photoframe today at the local currys/pcworld clearance centre to do the task. But forgot after my scooter ride turned very cold out near Huddersfield.

The thinking is I can create a feed (some how) which the photoframe will accept. In actual fact with a bit of XSL knowhow, it should be possible to create a combination of the information of the movie from IMDB with the fan art of TMDB.

Ultimately I’d like to experiment with a Android Tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Tab running a cut-down/custom Android XBMC remote. Of course I’m not the only one who is thinking this, other hackers have tried the XBMC remote on a android tablet. But no ones really developed a photoframe interface optimized for showing your collection.

XBMC dharma goes online

In a surprise (surprising to me at least) move to XBMC there is now a couple of services which allow you to show off your collection to the awaiting public. Something a little like Boxee does but much more like Last.FM (or rather Audioscrobbler) does.

Trakt.TV

The first one is Trakt.TV which simply tracks what you watch, just like last.FM/Audioscrobbler but for TV and Film. Of course its still early days, so theres not a lot of data right now but the database is powered by other open source projects the movie database and the TV database. Of course the scobbler plugin is built directly into the new Dharma XBMC, but you can force it into Camelot too if you don’t want to upgrade quite yet. One of the nice settings in the plugin is the ability to only send a update when you watch a certain percentage of the film/TV show. And of course you can blacklist certain directorys if you want to protect your p0rn for example. You can imagine the Lol’s when someone finds your secret stash of p0rn on the site. Credit is certainly due to trakt.tv for the global stats and chart pages, alas OKtrends.

Oh by the way my profile is here but its quite empty right now because I’ve not been watching anything from my xbmc library today.

Share the TV

Share the TV is the next one which aims to be less like Trakt.TV and more like a place to just dump your whole movie collection. Like Trakt.TV theres a plugin directly in the new XBMC and its just a matter of enabling it. Also like Trakt theres a load of options you can configure so its only uploading you collection every once in a while. Unlike Trakt, share the TV uploads the whole of your current movie and TV database to the site. So ideally you can show your friends what you got. Its also powered by the movie database which is a nice touch.

My profie is here again.

The crux of the issue

I like both of them but its very handy being able to see the whole collection with sharetheTV. I do worry somewhat that someone will look at my collection and decide that a film which isn’t out yet is obviously pirated (Grow up people!) (I tend to download a lot of trailers of course and XBMC picks up the metadata for them). I would really like to see trakt.tv and sharethetv come together to form a much stronger single site really.

Nothings perfect but theres room for change in both. Being able to change the update perious is useful in sharethetv because for example, Notorious auto scans as the 1946 film with the same name. So I need to change it before it syncs up the cloud.

Its great they both use the open movie/tv sites but it would be great if in turn they would also provide a export option for your own data collected. I’m sure there both working on it but sooner rather that later. I’d also like to see the ability to embed your collection elsewhere (actually trakt does support basic embeding). I’ve been burned on this front before with myfilmz.net.

Finally it would be great if either site could solve the problem which was highlighted by tape it off the internet (or tioti.com which is now findmetv.com) When your watching a TV series such as for example The Event. Some friends are following the UK Channel4 series, some are downloading it and some are waiting for the boxset. It would be fantastic to be able to track all that in a simple web/gui.

The next version of XBMC (Dharma) is now available

XBMC

Almost missed this one.

Unfortunately I’ve not had a chance to play with it on my home cinema setup because I switched off the machine just before I went away for the holiday season. But reading through the list of changes and finally having a little dabble on my laptop confirms this will be the first thing I’ll do when I get home.

XBMC 10.0 “Dharma” is ready for consumption. Those who have been following development know that add-ons are the main focus of this release. In the past, in order to find a new skin, you would have to dig through the forums, find a link, and hope it worked. Ditto for plugins, scrapers, etc.

Those days are over. All of these things are now available within XBMC, no need to put down the remote to find new content or change the look of your HTPC. Just head to the “add-ons” section in the system menu. At the time of this writing, there are 11 different skins available, all with distinct looks and personalities. But we didn’t stop there. Want to watch your favourite youtube videos? Listen to some web radio or podcasts? Install a web interface to control your living-room experience, or even one to manage your media? It’s all available in the new add-ons system. Even before the final release, we have seen an average of 50,000 add-on downloads per day. It’s time for you to see what many others have discovered! And remember, the best part is that the add-ons are very much alive. New ones are being added every day, and current ones are continuously updated.

So finally XBMC has caught up with Plex in regards to plugins and scrapers. The full change log is here.