Category: Google TV

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An upcoming era of revolutionizing $99 set-top-boxes

Posted by Charbax – August 12, 2010

Americans watch in average 5 hours of TV every day. Imagine a revolutionary $99 set-top-box which you add to your living room. This one increasingly brings more and more content from the Internet to the HDTV. This one even improves the experience of regular TV channels by overlaying search features and better targeted ads (which can finance better TV content).

Engadget is reporting on the rumored $99 Apple iTV set-top-box. It will basically be like an iPod Touch, without the screen and with an HDMI output and a remote control. It'll have the latest Apple A4 processor which is based on the Hummingbird 45nm ARM Cortex A8 processor (similar to the one used by Samsung in the Galaxy S) designed by Intrinsity before they were bought by Apple. As usual, I don't expect Apple to include support for many video and audio codecs and a proprietary iTunes synchronization over the network is more likely than support for the Samba and Upnp local file sharing standards.

The idea here is that by using the optimal ARM processor of the market, a very powerful yet very cheap set-top-box can be made. One that brings full 720p web browsing to the HDTV, but also re-designed and optimized graphics accelerated user interfaces to the HDTV, basically smooth interfaces for Youtube and other video-on-demand sources, to thus be watched directly on the HDTV.

I've video-blogged about Android based set-top-boxes such as the $50 design by Webia Technologies and Bonux and the $129 (retail target price) one made by Keenhigh mediatech. Both can run the latest Android 2.2 software (when available) with full 3D graphics acceleration even though their processors are likely ARM9 or ARM11 based.

As Google goes along partnering with Intel to release Google TV soon, I expect the Intel based designs to be sold at $199 or likely above that. I think it would be nice to know how soon the customized Android software that represents the Google TV disribution would also be optimized for use on cheaper ARM Powered solutions. As Android on those cheap prototypes looks great, it would be good for those devices to know they can rely on a Google OS optimized for use with a remote control and optimized for easy access to revolutionary HDTV features. Including the support of Youtube in HD quality on all those cheap boxes.

The basic hardware features needed for full Google TV support on cheap ARM Powered set-top-boxes I think are HDMI input and output (pass-through) for overlaying features to contents from existing Cable/satellite set-top-boxes as well as the IR blaster to control that other set-top-box. But for Internet and media streamer features only, all that is needed is just a Google TV for ARM software release.

Youtube 4K, for realz?!!!!!

Posted by Charbax – July 9, 2010

Google announced this new resolution support on Youtube a bit weirdly: 4K is 4096x3072 thus 3072p. It is not "4096p" and not "1096 x 3072 pixels". Or is 4K supposed to amount to 4 Million pixels? Here's the text from Youtube's announcement (as posted at this moment to http://youtube-global.blogspot.com/2010/07/whats-bigger-than-1080p-4k-video-comes.html):

Today at the VidCon 2010 conference, we announced support for videos shot in 4K (a reference resolution of 4096 x 3072), meaning that now we support original video resolution from 360p all the way up to 4096p.

We always want videos on YouTube to be available in the highest quality possible, as creators intend. In December of last year, we announced support for 1080p, or full HD. At 1096 x 3072 pixels, 4K is nearly four times the size of 1080p. To view any video in a source resolution greater than 1080p, select "Original" in the video quality pulldown menu:

Here's my reaction:

- WHOAAAWWW! Is this 1st of April or something? Is Google talking for real?

- What is the bitrate going to be for 4K? My guess, based on calculating the bitrate per pixel of 2mbit/s for Youtube 720p and 4mbit/s for Youtube 1080p is that for 4K it would be something like 24mbit/s. That's within the same bitrate as our 15 year old DV format (like miniDV tapes). That's like the top bitrate established for 1080p AVCHD format. This is totally manageable! We can get 50mbit/s and 100mbit/s "easilly" over here in Scandinavia. If Google would provide full bandwidth delivery of Youtube 4K worldwide, we could seriously enjoy this!

- I wish the LCD and Projector industry focus on making Quad HD or 4K screens (however they should be called) instead of that 3D fad thing. Logically, thanks to Youtube 4K, we could be getting 4K HDTVs and projectors for less than $1000 by this time next year. Because the processors are already ready, they just need to be put into mass manufactured screens and projectors.

Another point in Youtube's announcement that I would like to learn something about and maybe start to counter:

To give some perspective on the size of 4K, the ideal screen size for a 4K video is 25 feet; IMAX movies are projected through two 2k resolution projectors.

I have seen Quad HD LCD screens at trade shows. Those were in the 50-82" range I think. They are absolutely amazing (Sergey Brin has one), some of the most impressive demonstrations I have ever seen in going to most of the trade shows since 2005. See my video of the Samsung 3840x2160p 82" LCD HDTV. See my video of the JVC 4K2K HDTV and Projector.

I believe that one can see higher than 1080p on HDTV starting below 50" sizes. The iPhone 4 has a 326DPI 3.5" screen. I don't see why we can't get higher DPI on our HDTVs than 52DPI on a 42" HDTV? Why should the iPhone 4 have a 6x higher DPI than my 42" 1080p Full HD HDTV? If they were to put 4K processor in my 42" HDTV, it would still "only" have a 111DPI, still much less than what they have done on the iPhone 4. Sure my 42" HDTV has 132 times larger surface area than an iPhone (a 42" HDTV could fit 132 of iPhone's screens), if you want to set a standard for what the DPI per field of vision should be based on the iPhone 4 held at half arms length (50cm) with 326DPI screen, then a 42" HDTV with 4K screen of 111DPI would need to be seen within 1.5 meters of a distance to get the same effect. Usually a sofa is placed 4-6 meters away from the LCD HDTV. Perhaps people will want to sit closer to the screen to experience something closer to 4K quality. At the photo exhibitions and museums of paintings, it is common for people to approach the images at distances closer than 1 meter to appreciate the details in the image. Perhaps 4K would be more suitable sizes above 50" and preferably perhaps even above 60" in diagonal. 67" 4K HDTV would have a 70DPI thus achieve same pixels per angle of view at 2.5 meters distance. 65" 1080p HDTV is $2500 today at Best Buy, how much more would it cost to include the latest 4K processor in there to stream 4K contents from Youtube 4K? Perhaps 4K HDTVs in the living room can be displaying any of our existing 12megapixel images taken with any recent digital photo camera, slideshows on a 4K screen look awesome. Thus Picasa could be streaming out some amazing customized and personalized slideshows, to be marvelled at in the living room at closer distance than usual.

Another point in Youtube's announcement that I would like to discuss:

Because 4K represents the highest quality of video available, there are a few limitations that you should be aware of. First off, video cameras that shoot in 4K aren’t cheap, and projectors that show videos in 4K are typically the size of a small refrigerator. And, as we mentioned, watching these videos on YouTube will require super-fast broadband.

Now, let's discuss, when are cheap 4K encoders going to be available? What hardware is required in the camcorder to encode that resolution effectively (and not also use up too much bandwidth in its compression). How expensive are the 4K decoders really?

Is 4K support something that could come with the upcoming ARM Cortex A9 processors?

I would think that this could be a nice challenge for ARM processor providers to work towards. They have now reached 1080p playback for a while already, even though it only really comes with ARM Cortex A9 to small low power consumer devices. Media streamers though have done 1080p playback for a few years already. I filmed the first 1080p KiSS Technology players at CeBIT 2004:

With Moore's law, doubling of playback processing every 18 months, 4K decoders should have been ready since the second half of 2008 already, and in Set-top-box devices that shouldn't cost more than the KiSS Technology DP-600 shown in 2004, less than $300 today? Perhaps next year we will be able to see Google TV boxes with 4K and Youtube 4K streaming support on $2K 65" 4K LCD HDTVs or $1K 4K projectors?

$50 Android Set-top-box by Webia Technologies

Posted by Charbax – June 2, 2010

This is the $50 mass produced Android Google TV based on ARM Processors, that could be coming soon to revolutionize the way people get Internet and Interactive content on their TVs. The ARM Powered Google TV boxes will obviously be much cheaper, smaller and better than the ones using Intel. Look forward to lots of ARM Powered Google TV news to come on ARMdevices.net during the next days, weeks and months.

$129 Android 2.1 HD Set Top Box

Posted by Charbax – June 1, 2010

Keenhigh mediatech is showing this awesome looking Telechips based Android 2.1 set-top-box at Computex. This is close to what the ARM Powerd Google TV devices might look like. Add to it the HDMI pass-through and IR blaster of the Google TV spec, and add perhaps an ARM Cortex A9 processor, and you will have the potentially $99 Android set-top-box.

What will Google charge for Youtube HD access on ARM Powered devices?

Posted by Charbax – May 11, 2010
Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Youtube HD consumes lots of bandwidth, Google wants to kind of control which devices can access that. I spoke with some Realtek based set-top-box manufacturers that told me it actually costs $1 Million in licencing to get Youtube API support on a device. Check my video: http://armdevices.net/2010/03/17/zinwell-cinematube-at-cebit-2010/

I don't really believe it's that expensive. It wouldn't really make sense. But anyways, I think it's got to do with something about Google changing the way the API works for devices to pull the Youtube videos to devices.

But that may change anyways and not be required anymore when Flash support is added in the next few weeks. That may be the solution for full Flash video support no matter about the Youtube API licencing issues.

Otherwise, I hope Google soon clarifies what they require for licencing out the Youtube HD access for devices, I wouldn't mind if they require users to be logged in and pay a very small amount,

Something like $1 per 10GB
= 10 hours of Youtube playback at 720p 2mbit/s
= 5 hours of Youtube playback at 1080p 4mbit/s

of authenticated Youtube HD access or something like that, and that this should work on any device. This would then cover Google's bandwidth costs for HD video streaming, and even provide the groundwork for Youtube to provide video-on-demand, video rentals, perhaps even scale up a new Live Youtube Streaming Service, also provide a one-click donation system and paying very small amounts to watch videos in HD quality without ads.

At Google I/O next week, Google is going to launch the Google TV initiative, I expect them to clarify the terms of Youtube access on devices by then.

Clearly defined specs of ARM Powered devices that may access Youtube in HD quality, and provide the full pay-per-view support with that, may provide a solid platform for one of the biggest revolutions for the TV media. People watch 3-4 hours of TV per day in average, the easy access to web video from Youtube on a sub-$100 set-top-box may revolutionize the content people will watch on their TVs. It may affect major election results. Youtube already represents perhaps as much as half of the worldwide internet bandwidth.

If Google makes this happen in the right ways, Google TV may become Google's new largest source of revenues and profits. At the same time, I think, it may revolutionize media and democracy for the better.

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Google to open-source On2 VP8 for HTML5 video

Posted by Charbax – April 13, 2010
JVC GZ-MG555 digital camcorder
Image via Wikipedia

I was right when I immediately deducted back in August 2009 that Google's purchase of On2 would likely lead to them open-sourcing and releasing On2's VP8 video codec as a free open-source video codec to be used as the HTML5 video format.

Google could use VP8 codec on Youtube in HTML5 mode, and force everyone using Youtube to upgrade to HTML5 browsers

Newteevee.com is reporting that Google plans to announce VP8 video codec for HTML5 at next month's Google I/O conference in San Francisco.

This means the world will get an open-source and free video-codec to use in all consumer electronics, to use in all websites and for the distribution of all video contents. Look forward to small Chinese manufacturers not anymore having to pay ridiculous $20'000 or more licencing fees to the Mpeg Consortium through "Sisvel" and other such hugely expensive licencing costs which manufacturers have to pay to exhibit products in Europe or in the USA for simply being able to playback those formats. Consumer electronics products will likely ship with Google's Video codec installed by default and only unlock access to proprietary codecs through a codec licence unlocking system through letting users pay the licence themselves or only unlock the functionality at the time of sale and not during the conference exhibitions.

Using this new VP8 for HTML5 could potentially save Google and other content and distribution companies millions of dollars in H264 licencing costs for sites like Youtube. Google Chrome and Firefox will thus ship with HTML5 video codec pre-installed in the browser, and obviously that Android, Chrome OS will come with it too. And Google will likely freely provide all the tools for hardware acceleration on all hardware platforms as well.

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Google TV with HDMI pass-through?

Posted by Charbax – March 26, 2010

Following are opinions, not facts:

The Google TV box can be made for $50 if they use an ARM processor based platform, which is much lower power and much cheaper than Intel and provides all the same if not more 1080p and video streaming features.

The idea of implementing Google TV using the HDMI pass-through option (as "reported" by videonuze.com) and adding stuff to HDMI from the existing Cable/Satellite set-top-box sounds like a genius plan. If HDCP or however all those copy protection technologies of HDMI don't prevent that solution from happening or to be turned off by broadcasters, then my guess is that Google could provide a $100 retail solution including HDMI pass-through and infrared emitter that would basically be compatible with all existing set-top-boxes, no matter what Comcast and DirecTV think about this.

HDMI pass-through and the infrared emitter would allow Google to replace your existing remote control with a more web centric remote control (and keyboard), display any overlay graphics and informations on any video contents, even "take over" existing programming, such as streaming customized advertisements instead of the broadcasted ads (with the agreement of the broadcaster of course). Possibilities could also include overlay chats, IMs and status updates, overlay community features like polls, discussions, ratings. It could include real-time user-generated recommendations for programming, even time-shifting to allow Google to overlay automatically generated subtitles, even translated subtitles. Time shifting could also allow for launching of related Youtube searches and videos at any time and then resume normal programming.

My guess though, even though Google TV will kill current broadcast monopolies and TV stations eventually, the Google TV solution will also completely revolutionize advertising for all TV stations. Basically, a TV station and broadcaster could opt-in to have Google manage personalized advertisment instead of the existing common denomiator type of TV advertisement. By doing that, the revenues from TV ads would go up 10 times overnight. So either they can decide to show 10x less ads for the same content, or they can make 10x more money and use some of it to create better contents.

In my opinion, the real deal here is to bring Youtube to the HDTV. But also to provide a recommendations box for broadcast TV as well. Imagine the Google TV learns what you like, because the Google TV remote control will have one big green "Like" button, users click it when they are watching something that they like. That will help Google learn your taste. And if you want to watch TV but you are too lazy to research what content is available, Google can generate recommended content queues for you, of either live or on-demand content, and a mix of both.

A cool little app that will change the TV and movie business seriously, because Google TV is open source, integrated BitTorrent downloads and RSS will not be stoppable. Which means, you want a movie, just type in the title and the device will start the BitTorrent download automatically, be it legal or not. And StreamTorrent type technology can even let you nearly instantly stream any contents using p2p technology. Net Neutrality will make this great.

I originally posted these estimates and opinions at: videonuze.com