By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
HD DVD won't be the only high-definition video disc format with Web-enabled interactivity much longer.
San Francisco-based software developer Related Content Database is announcing at International CES two new Blu-ray feature platforms — BD Live and BD Magic. Both will bring the power of the Internet to Blu-ray Discs, offering a broad range of interactive possibilities to enhance the user experience.
BD Live is billed as a content-focused system that makes possible new features that "go far beyond just a Web-connected disc," said Zane Vella, The Related Content Data Base (RCDB) president.
BD Magic is an optional player feature that adds a network content delivery channel and a personal media library to a compatible Blu-ray Disc player. Powered by the Gracenote database, BD Magic will instruct the player to connect with RCDB to download related content for Blu-ray Discs and legacy DVDs and CDs.
The Blu-ray players also will be able to receive fresh Blu-ray trailers, sample scenes and exclusive high-def content, even when there is no disc in the player, Vella said.
One of the first titles enabled for BD Live will be 20th Century Fox's "Alien vs. Predator" which will include a video game called Alien vs. Predator vs. You. The game brings together a networked role-playing video game and the high-definition feature film, Vella said.
Viewers select a character from among aliens, predators or Marines, which are the three groups combating each other in the movie, as well as weapons and skill sets.
The software will then sync up multiple players over the Internet to allow viewers and their friends to play scenes from the movie, and choose from among weapons and skills how to respond to what's happening on a shot-by-shot basis. Viewers can gauge what is happening and what's available to them through a high-def, heads-up onscreen display. It will also register life points of each player, as well as the weapons opponents are choosing.
The advanced features of BD Live and BD Java (Sun's interactive software platform in the Blu-ray spec) calculate at every moment precisely what the outcome will be of a player's reactions, based on how they respond and what they chose to respond with.
Rather than a shooter-type of experience, the game is designed to instantaneously calculate the outcome of selections made in the process of playing the game.
"The combination of BD Java and BD Live is going to make the format really shine," said Vella, whose company developed the game for the disc. "It's about connecting with the storyline in the film."
Vella said RCDB also developed "the core BD Live technology, which is a communications module [a client and server framework] to make it possible for studios and developers to quickly and efficiently make network features."
"We realized a year and a half ago that there was a need to develop a reusable BD Live content and server technology," said Vella. "We worked with Sun to build the best piece of technology we could. Now, our effort is to get as many studios and developers together using it."
Vella said there is "a big difference between just having a Web-connecting feature on a disc to pull in some new content, and having a new category of network-connected entertainment. Only Blu-ray through BD Java has support for the real time network protocols that are imported for gaming."
One of the more compelling capabilities of the new system is "the world of social connections that it opens up around the HD movie experience," he said. "Not only are you able to play games with your friends, you will be able to find other fans and connect with them, and then personalize your game experience."
In the example of Alien vs. Predator vs. You, users can create their own avatars using their own pictures that will be visible to other connected players.
Although early Blu-ray players will not include the hardware necessary to support BD Live, Vella said most new players going forward will. Compatible players will bear a BD Live designation to help users clearly identify the capabilities, he said.
"Some manufacturers will provide firmware upgrades for devices that have the network hardware onboard, and other early adopter devices won't be firmware upgradeable. Everyone in the industry is operating with the expectation that Sony will make BD Live compatible with the PS3," he said.
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