Jinni triumphant at CableLabs confab
Jinni’s recommendation-engine-with-a-twist was voted by the cable elite at CableLabs’ latest Innovation Showcase as the technology most likely to become a successful product, edging out various instances of chip-level video processing hardware, social networking applications optimized for cable, interactive video applications and enabling technologies for TV Everywhere.
Jinni has a beta of its guide on its own Web site , and CEO Michael Pohl said he expects that several service provider customers will have their own Web portals powered by Jinni up and running well before the year is out, though he declined to identify any of them.
As cable operators add channels, and add VOD libraries, and enable access to content available on the Web, their subscribers are faced with a seemingly logarithmic increase in content available to them. With a surfeit of content to sift through, viewers can easily fail to find anything that suits their tastes.
So the idea is to make it easier for viewers to find something they’ll like (and maybe even pay extra for). Part of the solution is to marry content guides with recommendation engines. Content gets tagged with metadata – a video asset might be labeled with multiple standardized tags as “action” or “romance.” Viewers looking for action films will get presented with only those choices. Each viewer’s choices can be analyzed to create a profile of the types of content they tend to like, and that analysis can be used to find other content that is similar, allowing the service provider to recommend content.
The company said that most other guides use filtering or statistical techniques, but its guide differs in that it relies on “semantic” approach. At least in part, the difference seems to be in the volume and range of tags. Pohl said Jinni’s guide includes more than 2,000 tags that include common descriptions and “mood” tags.
The company’s beta includes search terms such as “offbeat,” “witty” and “thought provoking.” Other search criteria include “race against time,” “fish out of water,” “world war I” and “life is a bitch.”
While impressively wide-ranging, there is clearly room for expansion; for example, “repartee” and variations on the words “swashbucklers” and “swordplay” stymie the guide.
Jinni said it will collaborate with cable operators to integrate Jinni technology to enhance the operators’ current user interfaces and guides and profile-driven addressable ad placement. (For more information on advanced navigation systems such as Jinni’s and advertising, check out “Navigation guide, advertising universes aligning”  in the current edition of CED.)
Pohl said the first, easiest cable instantiations to do will be Web portals. The company has a set of APIs to link with a variety of set-tops, PCs, game consoles and mobile devices, so that service operators or the device OEMs themselves can include Jinni search-and-discovery. Pohl said that on set-tops, for example, the Jinni guide can be an EBIF application.
Jinni currently partners with SeaChange, OpenTV and NDS.
Other demonstrators at the Innovation showcase included:
- Clearleap, FourthWall Media and The Weather Channel, who collaborated on what they called a proof of concept, branded EBIF weather application fully integrated with video. The unbound app integrates data and graphics to deliver current weather conditions updated every few minutes and video from on-camera meteorologists to present the latest local forecast information for multiple U.S. cities, the partners said. It integrates with an operator’s existing VOD infrastructure. Advertising can be inserted in either a graphic or video format.
- iLoop Mobile showed an application that allows mobile device users to text message responses to advertisements; the app lets service providers fulfill the requests by sending coupons or other promotional material.
- IPgallery demonstrated its Advanced Multimedia Application suite called My Contacts Zone. The idea is to enable the creation of personalized portals for viewers that combine multiple social network sites and apps (Facebook, GoogleTalk, etc.). The portal becomes a marketing opportunity for the service provider.
- Miniweb Interactive’s Broadband Content Guide aims to solve the same problem as Jinni. The company suggests the use of a hybrid STB to support a guide that includes both operator-based and Internet-based content. With Miniweb, cable operators can add value to and monetize Internet video, providing centralized billing, community, search, recommendations and advertising functions that complement and work with every online provider that is part of the extended guide, the company said.
- Pace Americas showed a Home Content Sharing multi-room DVR that allows the system to achieve massive, simultaneous read/write activity to a hard disk drive supporting up to nine simultaneous HD streams within the home, including six simultaneous recordings. This architecture assumes the introduction of more sophisticated home networks based on home media gateway products, Pace explained.
- A company called Related Content Database (RCDb) provides software and network services that integrate and extend public and private Internet Web services to consumer electronics devices. It demonstrated a Java client application that currently powers secure network communications for Blu-ray disc and connected devices and manages access to servers for managing IP-connected device services, content updates and user profiles.
- SeaChange International showed multi-screen video delivery using its Intelligent Video Platform, which the company said enables operators to manage, monetize and deliver a seamless multi-screen experience to their subscribers, all from a unified back office infrastructure. The point, SeaChange said, is to simplify the migration to the “TV Everywhere” experience – including mobile devices – by building on existing infrastructure and expertise.
- Trailer Park/Jargon has a platform that allows cable operators to leverage tru2way cable boxes to enable their subscribers to take their mobile devices and interact, via home networks, with their TVs. Activities could include voting or accessing additional information about what’s currently playing onscreen. The demo will show that the product is not only a mobile application, but also a mobile platform that can be extended with innovative features and creative possibilities by third parties, such as creating interactive mobile/TV advertisements.
- Wowza Media Systems demonstrated its media server software that the company said simplifies video/audio delivery for Web TV and mobile TV, as well as over-the-top IPTV, by eliminating the need for multiple client-specific encoder and server infrastructures. Wowza said it employs a unified workflow model capable of streaming video from one common H.264 live encode or VOD asset base to a variety of desktop, mobile and living room playback clients from a single server infrastructure.
- Finally, Zenverge has produced a chip that would go into a gateway device that would enable whole-home DVR and multi-screen delivery. The user interface is virtualized in a central gateway/server and inserted into each video stream. As such, all display devices (including those in the installed base) benefit from the same look and feel without the need for special middleware or application software running on an expensive client STB or the display device. It calls the enabling technology Remote User Interface embedded in Video (RUIV).