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News

From couch potato to active multimedia user

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung Der Angewandten Forschung E.V. : 31 August, 2003  (Company News)
Even in this multimedia age, most TV viewers are condemned to an existence as relatively passive consumers. To express an opinion on a particular show, their only means of feedback is by indirect routes such as the telephone.
Votes for the best candidate in the Saturday-night game show are cast using TED, a telephone voting system. The same system, or e-mail, is used for travel bookings or to purchase products advertised on home-shopping channels. Good old snail mail is used here too. Modern technology is capable of offering far more sophisticated services, but wider use of the new MHP set-top boxes is being held back by the limited choice of attractive services. Nevertheless, the Multimedia Home Platform is gradually gaining ground. MHP, a format developed by the European Digital Video Broadcasting project, has become the standard reference for digital TV and related media.

Like the Internet, MHP allows many different interactive applications to be accessed directly on-screen. At the international consumer electro-nics show in Berlin, from August 29 to September 3, companies exhibiting their latest MHP-enabled television sets will be joined by service providers offering ideas for a wide range of interactive features. Solutions developed by Fraunhofer researchers will be on view at the joint Fraunhofer stand in Hall 5.3, under the slogan 'Virtual Experience'.

One already-implemented solution is ZDFdigitext, developed as part of a collaborative project by ZDF, the second national TV channel in Germany, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Media Communication IMK. 'To explain the benefits of this interactive news and information service to those who don't yet know it, I would draw a comparison with the earliest days of the PC,' says Heike Fischer. 'Broadcast videotext is like MS-DOS, whereas ZDFdigitext corresponds to Windows or other user-friendly graphical user interfaces.' Another system being exhibited by the IMK's competence center for interactive TV is JAME - an open-ended software system that allows TV editors to produce a wide variety of MHP-based applications. Is it conceivable that TV sets will one day be interconnected in the same way as computers linked to the Internet? This type of mixed-media solution is already offered by the Home-to-Home communication setup developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems FOKUS. 'Connected MHP boxes allow even the unexperienced users to share all types of content with one another from their living rooms,' explains department head Dr. Angela Scheller.
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