To brighten up your dreary winter's morning, here's something to tickle the dreamer inside you: Exactly how might we be enjoying our digital entertainment in the future? Three news pieces today point to different TV-based ways to digest our media.
Hulu Joins the Online Music Fray, Kinda--With Video
Hulu's really shaking up  the online TV and movie streaming business, but it's just launching a new initiative to that mixes the online music streaming game with a little MTV-like spin. According to a Hulu press release (and The New York Times ), Hulu has partnered with record label EMI for a whole channel on Hulu dedicated to EMI artist Norah Jones. All her music videos, several interviews and four concert movies will be available online as a result. For those of you not fans of the sultry Ms. Jones, other EMI artists will be added later.
Hulu's SVP for content and distribution, Andy Forssell, noted that Hulu had looked at dumping thousands of music videos online as a business model, but decided that the single-artist route was "the best starting point" that's more in keeping with what Hulu users expect. But, with Forssell confident that all of the major labels will sometime soon be in a relationship with Hulu, it kind of turns the service into an on-demand MTV-like service, similar to the many music clips you can find on YouTube, but delivered through Hulu's own, much sleeker, content management system direct to your TV.
Future teenage kids, used to getting whatever they want digitally on demand, will love it.
Amimon's New Wireless Chip Consigns HDMI Cable to History
Chipmaker Amimon's just announced some tiny little modules that'll change how you think about streaming video content, and whether your PC is really a TV or your TV is really a PC. Due on the market next year, the chipsets are effectively wireless high-definition video transmitters that are designed to slot into PCs and effortlessly connect them to your TV.
The upshot, of course, is that your tiny notebook PC (or even high-end netbooks) will be able to act as a full high-definition video/music/home entertainment server for your home, with nary a wire in sight. Loaded your notebook up with hundreds of pics when you were on vacation? Use the wireless connection to turn your TV into the biggest digital picture frame you've ever seen. Have a 1080i 60 frames-per-second movie that you *ahem* just happen you have on your notebook? Amimon's chip can even cope with that Blu-ray-rivaling video power. The chips have a range of 100 feet, so there's no reason you couldn't transmit from a desktop PC to the TV in your bedroom, should you feel like changing where you are in the home mid-movie.
The point of this is that how you think about TV screens and PCs being divorced entities is going to change. We're already seeing some smart HDTVs with limited widget and net-connection powers, but they'll be almost irrelevant when your spanking new TV can simply act as a monitor for your PC without messing with wires. That's a big change, trust me.
Google's Image Swirl Makes Photo Albums Look Paleolithic
Leaping off the back of that whole TV/PC connection photo album thing, this Google news is interesting. Google just unveiled a whole new way of browsing images, dubbed Image Swirl. It's experimental, so it's still stabled inside Google Labs, but it's a big tweak to the system that started as Google image search in 2001. Google describes it thusly: It uses "new computer vision research to cluster similar images into representative groups in a fun, exploratory interface."
That sounds kinda dry. What it does is automatically scan through similar images of, say, the Eiffel Tower, and group them into little piles for you to surf through: Pictures of the tower at night in one pile perhaps, during the day in another, drawings and paintings of Eiffel himself in another. You can drill down and up into the piles to find the pictures you want, and the interface is graphically similar to Google's existing Wonder Wheel search filtering.
So far, so groovy. But imagine what this'll be like when Google improves the tech, launches it on the full image search site, and possibly even unshackles it from the cloud and lets you download it as a Googletool to use on your own PC--it'll enable totally new ways to browse your thousands of family photos, directly on your TV from your notebook perhaps. Those paste and paper photo albums we used to be so into are going to look like dinosaurs pretty fast.
And there you have it: One quick glimpse of how you'll be digesting music video and all kinds of computer-based video and image content--wirelessly and on your HDTV. Norah Jones fans will get the first crack at it, which seems a shame for all us died-in-the wool, technology-crazed U2 fans out here, but what the hey.