Home is Where the Interactive HDTV is

Last week, several companies announced what they describe as a "unique, innovative project which will demonstrate the future of home entertainment." The project, named "CompleteTV," is intended to enable 20 families in Raleigh, North Carolina to take part in a pilot program beginning during the second quarter of 2001, giving them access to a home entertainment "experience" which will attempt to combine the worlds of broadcast HD programming and Internet-based information and entertainment.

The project will equip the Raleigh families with a large screen rear projection DLP HD TV from Panasonic, with HDTV programming supplied by the local CBS affiliate, WRAL Digital. The companies say that the system comes equipped with the necessary HD capability and PC interfaces to enable it to act as a multi-functional screen capable of simultaneously delivering HD video and high-resolution graphics. The complete system will include a high performance broadband "entertainment computer," integrated by RKR Video of California.

The group says that, during and at the conclusion of the six-month program, the families will provide feedback on their experience. Texas Instrument's Dale Zimmerman explains that "we have a vision of what home entertainment will look like in the future, and this exercise is designed to validate that vision and to provide Texas Instruments with invaluable information to support our continuing product development. This is a collaborative project whose ultimate goal is to enhance the home entertainment experience." TI's Gary Sextro adds, "There is no doubt in our minds that the home entertainment experience is poised on the threshold of major change. The new home entertainment paradigm will be built around a large screen. It will be highly interactive and personalized, and will be, in many instances, a deeply immersive experience which will often involve the whole family."

The families are expected to interact with their home entertainment system through a specialized navigation interface, designed by Emerald Solutions, and the program guide will be provided by Decisionmark. The "middleware," or the software which will allow broadcast video and Internet entertainment to appear simultaneously on the screen, is being developed by TI and Ravisent.

Ravisent's Mike Harris says that "technically, this is a significant challenge for everyone involved. All the elements are there, and all the technologies are in place, but making them work together in a way which is intuitive for the consumer is what makes this project unique." The complete system will be demonstrated and supplied by NOW A/V of Raleigh. The companies say that the initial stage of the project will get underway once potential participant families are identified, contacted, and invited to a private demonstration.