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Overview of SmarTV operating systems
Please note that I have taken great care to minimize any use of acronyms. I am not convinced at all that acronyms enhance communication. The following is a thumbnail sketch of the SmarTV system.
SmarTV is primarily a service, which includes: data sorting and retrieval, communications, and software controller updates.
The user, however, experiences SmarTV ("mod 3") as a piece of hardware that s/he hooks to hir VCR(s) and telephone, and which controls them in an "intelligent" fashion, personalized for every user.
The backend (user) hardware is described as this is a necessary part of the whole system, essential to our being able to initially test, debug, and actually generate a market where one does not exist today.
Metaview Corporation does not, however, desire to continue to build and market hardware. We would like to see VCR manufacturers incorporate SmarTV intelligent interfaces into their systems, perhaps paying a small fee to Metaview for use of the name as a selling point (much like the Dolby trademark is used). (Future: Note that for several so-equipped VCRs to work together, they will have to be able to operate in a master/slave fashion, with some sort of standard (MIDI-style?) protocol between them.)
Remember that one of the important goals of SmarTV is simply to aid the user to program their VCR more reliably. One way SmarTV helps in this regard is, if it is doing it's job, the show is already programmed in for the user, and all the user has to do is verify (by name and channel, not channel and date/time) that the show actually will be recorded. Failing that, the user programs hir VCR in the normal fashion, and can request a check, which could be immediate (perhaps at higher cost) or within a specified time (say, 24 hours).
Questionnaire / User Profile
A questionnaire provides the initial seed to the system. It is designed to be simple, short, and effective at generating a user profile which will be translated (hopefully, by mechanical means) into the search strategy used to sort through the TV Listings database and provide a subset of programming personalized to the end user.
Note that this step could be foregone by someone who desires to start by "reading the manual" and program it entirely via the on-screen interface. This is not recommended, and in fact may be impossible on early units.
The questionnaire is a key element to our initial success, and must be designed with great care. It is intended to provide general guidelines of viewer tastes, and not expected to make serendipitous predictions. In other words, special programs outside the realm of general user viewing will have to be entered (as Exceptions) manually.
While client systems are being prepared for use, we can gain some degree of knowledge about questionnaire design by creating a task force to prepare such a beast.
Given the limits of technology in the server (release 1), some of the questions may not be useful to the system. This feedback loop can continue until we feel that we have a good starting point.
Once the Server is running, we can begin "beta" testing of the questionnaire (and server!) on the WELL. This can be accomplished by having people fill out their questionnaires, feeding this information into their separate "profiles," and sending them a weekly mailing of what they would have watched if they had a SmarTV system. (This assumes that we can contract with TV Listings to give us (last-) weekly programming updates.) This may actually work better than predicting what to watch, as people will be able to measure SmarTV's choices versus their own, unbiased choices of that week. (It might make for some very critical TV guide reading...)
Each time the SmarTV system makes a mistake in "judgement" and is corrected by the user, the profile may be updated.
Host System (Server Backend, or Blair's "AI Head-end")
Origin of data is the TV Listings, Inc. (Fort Worth, TX) database. They provide listings of all TV shows at various qualities (and prices) of data description, and virtually in any (text) format.
The SmarTV Host System maintains a copy of this information which it indexes for easy access according to a proprietary set of selection rules. (The better selection rules makes the better product.)
These database updates occur via outgoing modem connects to the TV Listings database at regular intervals. Of course, a better scheme would be to have TV Listings call the SmarTV Host when new data is available.
The SmarTV Host System has a series of auto-answer modems connected to it which receive data request calls from the client systems requesting personalized updates. (What do we call these updates? How about "SmartListings"? How about "WYWIWYG" (What You Want Is What You Get))
The SmarTV Host System maintains, for each user (actually, for each unit by hard coded unit number burned in ROM at the factory) the current search strategy (user profile), and uses this to continuously update the outgoing SmartListings file for access and download when the unit next connects.
SmarTV Communications Protocol
The SmarTV Communications Protocol is a public domain, extensible, 8-bit ASCII (looking forward here to Kanji, and other multi-byte languages) protocol. (Is this correct? Tim?)
It provides a means of transporting data and commands, which enable (among other things) security/authorization checks, time synchronization, and software distribution (to client sites).
It should be able to be extended to providing a more generalized news and information capability, though this is not essential for the first release.
Distinct parts of the on-line session
User System (Client Frontend controller, "the box") Components
User interface concepts
User functions available from remote control
With loving memories of Blair Newman, the sad/mad genius behind it all, and a surrogate father for me.
Above memo Copyright © 1989,1994,1997 by Fen Labalme All Rights Reserved.