Roku Gets YouTube

Roku 3Perhaps unsurprisingly given Google’s now somewhat defunct plans for GoogleTV, YouTube has been one of the glaring omissions from the Roku platform. But not any longer. Roku has announced that a YouTube channel is now available on the Roku 3 in USA, Canada, UK and the Republic of Ireland. Older Rokus will be getting the channel next year, though the exact timing is unclear. For non-Roku owners, a channel is roughly equivalent to an app on other platforms.

The YouTube channel supports full 1080p HD and the press release suggests that subscriptions will carry over from other platforms so that your favourites can easily be seen on the Roku. The new channel also features “Send to TV”, which after pairing, lets you send a YouTube video from your smartphone or tablet for viewing on the Roku.

As a Roku 2 XS owner, I’m delighted but will have to wait a bit longer until I get the YouTube channel on my device (unless Santa has a surprise for me). Sadly, it will be one less reason to turn on my Nintendo Wii, especially with the HD support on the Roku.

4oD on the Roku

4oDHurrah – 4oD (4 on Demand) is now available on the Roku in the UK! It looks like this is breaking news as there’s no mention of it on either Roku‘s or Channel 4‘s websites and I only happened to notice when I was checking for new channels. A few tweets are beginning to appear. Having a quick rummage, it looks on a par with the web version but without some of the personalisation features.

For non-UK residents, Channel 4 is one of the four terrestrial broadcasters (BBC, ITV, C4 and C5). The BBC’s iPlayer and Channel 5’s Demand 5 are already on the Roku, leaving ITV as the last network to get their catch-up TV service onto the Roku. Hurry up!

Redbox Instant coming to PS4

redbox instant playlists

We are only a week away from the next big gaming console launch — Sony is set to debut its PlayStation 4 on November 15, inching ahead of Xbox One by a week. Both consoles have their pros and cons, and fans residing in opposite camps may cite a particular game or feature as the defining difference, but one thing both boxes will have is Redbox Instant.

Last week the video streaming service landed on the PS3, and it was expected to also come to the next-generation console. Today the speculation becomes official reality.

Like last week’s PS3 launch, this version also comes with an only-on-Sony feature — “exclusive to Playstation, the PS3 and PS4 contain the Playlist feature containing a specially-curated, rotating collection of Redbox Instant by Verizon movies that highlight the most exciting titles and serve as a great destination for fast, simple and fun movie discovery”.

“We’re pleased to continue our partnership with PlayStation by bringing Redbox Instant by Verizon to PS4″, said Shawn Strickland, CEO of Redbox Instant by Verizon.

As with any other Redbox Instant subscription, you will pay $8 per month in exchange for unlimited streaming and four physical disc rentals per month from any of the many kiosks. If you wish to take it for a test run, the company offers the first month free as a trial.

Video Podcasts Behaving Like TV?

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Roku

One of the downsides to Internet-based video content is that generally each new program being played back must be initiated by the user. This isn’t much of a problem if one is watching a full-length movie or television show via Netflix or Amazon Streaming. However, if one is watching short-form content like video podcasts such as “Film Riot” then watching a bunch of episodes in a row tends to be a bit more of a pain since each one must be started playing depending on the playback platform.

I discovered an interesting trick that the Roku is capable of using the free iTunes podcast database app that can be added from the Roku store on your Roku. The app connects with the iTunes podcast database and will display both video and audio podcasts. Select an episode and it will begin to play. If you select an older episode, either video or audio, it will play that episode and then automatically play all episodess that follow it in the correct order.

This is a very useful feature say if you want to catch up with several weeks’ worth of video podcasts. Each podcast plays automatically in the proper order. It is almost like being able to turn video podcast streaming into more of a conventional television viewing experience.

Popcornflix

Popcorn FlixPopcornflix is an ad-supported free streaming feature-length movie platform. They stream independent movies. The ads run about every 8–10 minutes. They are careful to make the user experience the best they can, streaming the movies at the highest quality available.

Popcornflix is available on the Roku, Bravia, iOs platforms including iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch and online through a browser. Popcornflix is one of the fastest growing app on the Roku with over 700,00 downloads in just a 9 month period. They are working out contracts with other platforms included connected TVs.

Screen Media Ventures is the parent company which is a traditional movie distributor. They are self financed and have built their own apps. Working out contracts and building a separate apps  for each platform is one of the biggest problem that Popcornflix has to deal with.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network and Daniel J Lewis of The Audacity to Podcast

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PlayPlay

Do We Still Need to Own Music?

I own a lot of music.  Well, the real truth is that it’s mine and that of my wife and kids, but all told it adds up to just over 95 GB.  The music collection started off with albums and cassettes when I was a kid, but later on those were all replaced by CD, and I traded in the albums, with the exception of a few rare bootlegs and imports that are sitting in a storage room collecting dust.  Later still, the CD’s were ripped to MP3 and also traded in and, since then, all purchases of music have been of the digital persuasion.  Time, and formats, march on.

Today all of our music resides on an external hard drive hooked to a home theater PC and backed up by CrashPlan and Google Music.  I use an Android smartphone as my MP3 Player, but it doesn’t actually have any music stored on it.  Every song we own can be streamed by the Google Music player but, the truth is, I almost never use it.  I work from home and I listen to something almost continuously but, the music we own just isn’t a part of my day because it just doesn’t command the importance it did before the digital era.

These days I listen to a lot of podcasts and, for that, I use Beyond Pod, but I also still listen to a lot of music.  I pay for a subscription to Pandora One and I have used many of my favorite artists to create stations so that I don’t need to scroll through that massive collection to find them – they just pop up and play, along with the music of other related artists.  It’s better this way.  Sure, I still bookmark a really good song thinking maybe I will buy it later, but honestly…I don’t.

Every once in a while the mood strikes me to hear a particular song but, for that, there are an untold number of sources, including Spotify, Grooveshark, YouTube, etc.  There are many others, but those three alone can provide almost any song you can imagine, even the most obscure tunes from your youth are there.

So, the question is, do we really still need to own music?  With the ability to play almost anything, anytime and create streaming stations that are tailored to our tastes, do we still have the need to buy songs, even in a digital format?  I may still be in the minority, but my answer is a resounding no.  The world is moving on and there are now better, more efficient ways.

Image: Player of Vinyl Disks by BigStock

Enhance the Movie Experience

Movie & Meal DealEver since the motion picture first burst onto the silver screen, people have wanted to enhance the cinematic experience. From 3D and IMAX to Smell-O-vision, just about every trick in the book has been used to make you feel part of the film, rather than an outside observer. To this fine canon of techniques, UK retailer Tesco and on-line movie service blinkbox are adding….food.

For their “Movie & Meal Deal“, Tesco and blinkbox commissioned top neuroscientist, Dr. Jack Lewis, to study the effects of active ingredients on people’s brains and then suggest food types that complement the movie-watching experience. His findings gave Tesco and blinkbox the perfect, if somewhat unusual, combinations for the ultimate movie night in.

Dr. Lewis reckons these foods match the movie genres.

  • Action – Sun-dried tomatoes coated in cocoa powder will raise noradrenaline which is instrumental to sensations of excitement
  • Comedy –  Fresh fish stuffed with beetroot and coleslaw to supplement the nitric oxide system and improve dopamine availability in the pleasure pathways of your brain
  • Drama – Chopped lemon, lime and mint sandwich drizzled with chilli sauce on wholewheat bread to trigger the RAS (reticular activating system) to remain alert and focused.
  • Horror – Chicken marinated in freshly brewed coffee will take you out of your comfort zone and raise levels of anxiety
  • Romance – Curl up with a spicy curry (not chocolate!) to top up your libido-stoking testosterone levels

Everyone knows that certain drugs can change the way you feel, but the chemicals we take into our bodies through our diet can also have an effect on our mood,” says Dr. Jack Lewis “Choosing to eat certain foods, whilst leaving others out, regulates the availability of ‘raw materials’ that the brain’s chemical messengers are created from. This means that you can tailor your meals to create the perfect mood for a movie night in, no matter what the genre.

The “Move & Meal Deal” is a partnership between Tesco and blinkbox: buy a variety of food and drinks from Tesco and then rent a blinkbox new release movie for just £2 instead of the usual price of £3.49.

Me, I think I’ll stick to popcorn.

Music Service MOG Moves Down Under

Music service MOG, which is quickly becoming a real competitor for Rdio, Spotify, Last.FM and others, has finally launched their service in the land down under.  Australian music fans will now have access to all of the MOG library and, if they have Telstra, they get a nice bonus thrown in.

This is MOG’s first move outside of the U.S. and they have partnered with Telstra for the occasion.  That’s important because Australia has some pretty serious bandwidth caps in place.  The partnership allows them to become the “exclusive provider of on-demand subscription music”.  More important was this little tidbit included in the announcement – “Though we’re available to all Australian listeners, Telstra customers enjoy unmetered streaming and downloading, meaning music played from mobile devices will not affect user data plans.”

MOG will offer all Ausies a free two week trial.  After that, users can enjoy unlimited ad-free service for $6.99 per month for basic service and $11.99 for the premium plan which adds mobile support for iOS, Android and Sonos.

Sonos Streams at The Gadget Show

Sonos Play 3 Sonos are well-known for their innovative audio products which integrate together to build highly controllable wireless hi-fi systems. Simplistically, you can start with one or two units and build-up over time until you can play music in any room in the house. The Sonos system can be controlled via smartphones and tablets with apps available for both iOS and Android devices.

I chat to Ian about Sonos’ latest developments including Spotify streaming, their entry-level unity the Play 3, and the larger Play 5.

The Eagles Have Landed…in Decorah, Iowa

decorah eagle cam

You may recall that last spring one of the most popular sites on the web was something called “Raptorcam” – also known as the “Decorah Eagle Cam”.  Well, those same eagle mates have been using that same nest each spring and summer to hatch and raise their young and this spring is no different.

The male and and female eagles have returned to their Decorah, Iowa nest and have recently hatched three new young.  Once again they are on 24-7 streaming video and once again they are under the  watchful eye of hundreds of thousands of online viewers.  You can watch them live at uStream or at Decorah Eagle Cam.  You can get more information from the Raptor Resource Project.  The happy family are now the number one most viewed live video of all time.