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October - 2008 - issue > Company Spotlight

Verismo Networks: Revolutionizing the 'Idiot Box'

Vimali Swamy
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Vimali Swamy
Over the years Internet has undergone a revolution and has moved away from being just a medium of connectivity. Development of services like YouTube, Flickr, and MySpace has elevated Internet to emerge as one of the prime medium of digital entertainment. With so many digital entertainment choices available on the Internet—movies, videos, songs, shows, news, sports, and what not—it is only fair that this source of entertainment be available in every home on their favorite gadget, the TV. With this vision of changing the way people experience home entertainment, the Mountain View based Verismo Networks has developed VuNow, a small set-top box for converged broadband and entertainment. One simply has to connect the TV and the Internet cable to VuNow and voila! One has the access to the millions of videos available on the Internet on the fingertips and can watch them seamlessly on the television without requiring a PC.

Since the boom of IPTV a few years earlier, the market landscape has seen a substantial change. Content providers who earlier partnered with service providers, which acted as middlemen, now want to reach the customers directly. Due to the presence of these middlemen, the regulation of content was very controlled and the exclusivity factor came into play. This did not allow content providers to have a wide reach of the viewers. With the rising popularity of mediums like YouTube, digital content providers are now willing to provide their content for free in order to attract viewers. For example, media houses like NBC, FOX, and others have come together to host a portal called Hulu that offers free streaming video of TV shows and movies aired in their networks and studios so that viewers can watch them at times of their choice. Hulu also provides Web syndication services for other websites including AOL, MSN, MySpace, Yahoo!, and Fancast, thus attracting as many viewers as possible.
Cashing in on this opportunity of demand and supply, Verismo positions itself as a service enabler for these entertainment houses. Leading content providers like Youtube, Google, BitTorrent, and Cinemanow have tied up with Verismo and the partnerships continue to grow. All the free and pay-on-demand content available on their networks can easily be accessed on one’s TV using VuNow. Verismo has also integrated an easy-to-use discovery engine thereby enabling access to over 90 percent of all the videos present on the Internet.
The Technology
The device, almost the size of a matchbox, measures just 3 x 4 x 1.5 inches but the quantum of technology that is packed in it is enormous. The product has been solely developed at the company’s development center in Bangalore that houses about 60 bright engineers. The device is powered by a TI DaVinci Media Processor which, depending on the network available in a particular geography, can be modified to change the speed of video streaming. Irrespective of the size of the TV screen, VuNow also adjusts the size of video display depending on the quality of the video. A USB port enables usage of external storage devices when one wants to download videos. Ably supported by a remote control with a full QWERTY keypad, one can search for videos, movies, and TV shows; navigate through different web pages; download the videos for a later watch, or simply browse the net. For VuNow, all that one needs to have is a TV and a high-speed Internet connection - LAN or Wi-Fi.

The beauty of the Internet is its openness that makes it simple for access by anyone. But it is to retain this simplicity that posed a great challenge for the engineers. We have come across several roadblocks while engineering the product, the foremost of them being user experience and the size of the device,” explains Satish Mugulavalli, Head of Technology. Since the market is swarmed with numerous entertainment devices such as DVD and VCD players and cable or satellite set-top boxes, the engineers took care of the fact that a consumer would not want his house stacked up with boxes. Hence, a lot of effort was put in shrinking the size of the device. VuNow, with its small size, is easy to store and can even be kept out of view by strapping it on the back of the television.

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