Kaleidescape Systems

Video-on-demand is moving into a new realm: the upscale home.

Mountain View, CA-based Kaleidescape, Inc. has introduced its Kaleidescape System, a DVD Server that allows users to store their entire movie collection on hard disks, allowing them to access any movie in their collection from any viewing zone in their home.

Based on a combination of proprietary patent-pending hardware, software and services, a Kaleidescape System includes rack-mountable hardware components, proprietary operating system software, and Kaleidescape's Movie Guide Service. A basic Kaleidescape System has one Server (with five disk cartridges for storing up to 160 movies), one Movie Player, and one DVD Reader. Additional cartridges can be added to the Server, up to a total of 12, sufficient to store 440 movies.

Additional Servers, Movie Players, and DVD Readers can be added to the system as required by each homeowner to increase movie storage capacity, the number of viewing zones, and to make it more convenient to import DVDs onto the Server(s). Kaleidescape's operating system lets the hardware components communicate with each other via the home Ethernet, and with Kaleidescape's Movie Guide Service, via the Internet. The Movie Guide Service "provides detailed information about thousands of movies," according to a December 15 announcement. Each Kaleidescape Movie Player and DVD Reader connects to the Server(s) via a 100 BaseT Ethernet LAN (local area network).

Compatible with "virtually any existing entertainment system," the Kaleidescape System features both analog and digital audio/video outputs on its Movie Player, provided connections to the homeowner's existing A/V system in the media room, kid's room, bedroom, or any other room in the house where convenient access to their movie library is desired.

The Kaleidescape System imports exact replicas of the DVD files onto the server, including copy protection. Since no additional compression is applied, no quality is lost. The same bits are streamed to the Movie Player located in any desired viewing zone. Once imported, the content can be accessed using an intuitive user interface which allows browsing, selecting and playing movies, jumping to favorite scenes, pausing, etc, very much like any hard-disk digital video recorder. The Kaleidescape Movie Guide Service provides important information about the movies stored, including: title, cover art, genre, parental control rating, cast, directors, synopsis, and certain video bookmarks. The Movie Guide is compatible with current AMX, Crestron and IP-based touch panels, and with universal remote controllers.

DVDs are imported bit-for-bit in native MPEG-2 format, including copy protection. Imported content resides on the Kaleidescape Server and can be played only on the Kaleidescape Players within the home. It cannot be copied to PCs, rewritten to blank DVDs, or accessed via the Internet. Kaleidescape manufactures its products under license from the DVD Copy Control Association, Inc. and Macrovision, Inc., among others, and is committed to protecting the intellectual property rights of the content owners. One Kaleidescape Server can store approximately 440 DVD movies. Clustered Servers can store thousands of movies, which appear to the user as a single consolidated movie library. Benefits of the Kaleidescape System include giving users the ability to pause a movie in one room and resume it later in another, and providing parents with four user-configurable levels of parental controls protect children from inappropriate content, based on MPAA ratings. Movies that span multiple DVDs are automatically linked together to create a seamless viewing experience.

High-def compatibility: According to the announcement, the Kaleidescape System has been designed in "future forward" anticipation of widespread availability of HD content. "The massive capacity of the Server is ideal for storing large HD movies and the Movie Player hardware is designed to support both 720p and 1080i video output," states the announcement.

Pricing will depend on the amount of movie storage, as well as the number of viewing zones. A base Kaleidescape System lists for $27,000 and includes a Kaleidescape Server with sufficient storage for 160 DVD movies, a Movie Player for playback in a single zone, and a DVD Reader for importing DVDs. The storage capacity can be expanded to over 400 movies for less than $6,000 and an unlimited number of Movie Players can be added for $3995 per zone. The Kaleidescape System will debut at CES 2004, beginning January 8. It will be demonstrated in the Las Vegas Convention Center South.