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AgileTV tests allow Sunflower subs to talk to their TVs

Sun, 10/23/2005 - 8:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner, CED

Memorizing the numbers of their favorite channels will become a thing of the past for some of Sunflower Broadband's digital customers.

Many of them soon will be able to simply navigate the wide, wide world of digital programming with simple voice commands that are uttered into a special remote.

The Lawrence, Kan.-based cable operator has teamed up with AgileTV Corp. to try out the company's voice-activated navigation system.

Under a "predeployment agreement" announced Monday, Sunflower will begin to place AgileTV's technology in customer homes, and support it with a marketing campaign.

With AgileTV's "Promptu" platform, Sunflower hopes it will remove the historical limitations of the electronic program guide as linear video products grow more difficult to navigate thanks to growing video-on-demand libraries and digital video recorder hard drive sizes.

In the home, AgileTV's Promptu platform uses an IR remote with a built-in push-to-talk button and a set-top "sidecar." The headend, however, is where all of the heavy lifting is done. There, an off-the-shelf server deciphers and cross-sections commands received from the consumer with a massive database that contains more than 100,000 phrases.

"I think this is an elegant solution to that problem, and opens the door to more advanced services," including those offered via a whole-home network platform, said Sunflower Broadband General Manager Patrick Knorr.

Presently, AgileTV can voice-enable an operator's broadcast lineup, though support for VOD and DVR is on the roadmap.

"We're service-centric," said AgileTV Co-Founder and Senior Vice President David Hanson. "As new aspects come in, we can load new software into the set-tops to voice-enable additional products."

Initially, Sunflower will test AgileTV's technology on Motorola set-top models such as the DCT2500 and all-digital DCT-700, and the Gemstar-TV Guide iGuide IPG. Sunflower also markets Digeo Inc.-Motorola "Moxi" media centers, but doesn't plan to offer AgileTV support on those right away.

The operator also intends to test out some marketing concepts to find out how the technology resonates with consumers. The campaign is using the tagline: "Talk to your TV."

Much more detail about Sunflower's work with AgileTV will appear in this week's xOD Capsule, CED's weekly electronics newsletter on interactive television and video-on-demand.

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