Osmosys, developer of MHP middleware, is looking to improve the performance of set-top graphics. Julian Clover reports
Last year at IBC I was suitably impressed by OpenTV’s demo of what an EPG might look like in a few years time. The image-led guide had more than a nod to the interface found on Apple’s iTunes that allows you to browse through your mp3s, as if they were album covers held in a Ronco record holder. In the case of OpenTV’s demo, you started off with a picture of your current selection, which was surrounded by other images of programmes you might like. The further out from the main image, then the less relevant the recommendation might be. Seachange and NDS also had new look EPGs to show, but the problem was that the set-top boxes needed to run these EPGs lack the processing power needed to do the job, and OpenTV was the first to admit it had produced the demo in Flash.
Osmosys, the company probably best known for its MHP engine, believes it might have the answer so at least the current generation of receivers might be able to step up a gear. “We’ve moved on into other applications, but they tend to be very TV centric, like video on demand or PVR,” said CTO Paul Bristow. “You can’t point to a box with our software, and say that’s an Osmosys box, because they look like anything.” The company remains separate from its parent ADB Group, which also includes the receiver manufacturer, and is quoted on the Swiss stock exchange.
Bristow is dismissive of the graphics capability of set-top boxes and the view that things will get better on their own within a few years. “You’ve got some limited 2D acceleration and some players are just starting to do their very first babysteps with 2D so you can start to draw things a little bit quicker.”
The demonstration of the Osmosys EGG (Enhanced Graphics enGine) began with a look at Apple TV, the Cupertino company’s entrance into the TV space, based around the iTunes product. “All of the HD set-top boxes that we know are HD video and SD graphics, this is SD video and HD graphics,” says Bristow. “The reason is to make the experience the same as that emotional grab that HD gives you.” He says that Apple and the PS3 both bring high definition to the user experience by adding a high end PC graphics card.
Such devices change the expectations of the consumer and led Osmosys in the direction of how it could be achieved in the set-top box. “We knew that real 3D graphics is still a few years away, but if these things are out there now, consumers won’t wait,” said Bristow. “We found a way to make it work for the application creator as if you had a 3D engine.” He says the system will work on the majority of HD boxes, and the more recent SD chipsets, although there is a limited amount of hardware support needed.
The graphics clearly have an added amount of depth to them, the sort you may find on a live sports event, and the sort of coloured gymnastics that no operator in their right mind would use as part of their look and feel. But the demo designed to show the capabilities worked and is one of those exhibits you will want to look at during IBC.
EGG is independent of the middlewares, MHP and OCAP, or tied to any particular system.