Practical Requirements

In the future, it may be possible for you to have a vast amount of video available at your home. This video may be accessible in an intuitive, useful way through software like that being developed at ILS.

To make the world I describe real, you need a source of both software and video that is trivially easy to obtain. This means your computer needs to be hooked up to the outside world in some way. Imagine that instead of the cable that provides cable TV going into your TV, it went into your computer instead. Now imagine that cable was truly interactive. Instead of your just being able to tell the cable to put the one of many channels it is carrying on your TV, you were able to ask for a tour of the Taittinger winery or you were able to transmit a question about why champagne bottles are so heavy. In both cases you would be sending an electronic message back to the company that installed the cable to search its video library and send back the right video to your computer. All this would happen behind the scenes. As a user, you wouldn't and shouldn't know about it.

To make this happen, some companies, possibly the current providers of cable TV or the telephone companies who provide fiber optics into the home, would have to operate an interactive digitized video database. To put this another way, when you ask for the video of Taittinger, you don't want to hear that it is busy, or can't be found, nor do you want to wait.

If these databases are to be able to deliver customized access to particular video clips, those clips must be properly indexed. Indexing clips so that you can easily get from a tour of the Taittinger winery to a discussion of why champagne bottles are heavy requires very flexible and detailed indexing. The first commercial uses of on-demand video will like use much simpler forms of indexing. The very first commercial use of this technology delivered to the home, will, I suspect, be in the form of movies and the elimination of the video rental store. Labeling movies by title is easy enough, so it will soon be possible to dial up any movie a video library contains. What about help from Julia Child with a particular recipe? Doing that involves indexing all her answers in such a way that you don't get an entire television show in response to a question while the sauce is congealing. This sort of indexing is not all that difficult. Creating large ASK systems that link each video clip to many related clips requires more sophisticated indexing. Still, we already know how to build such systems, so commercial applications may not be so far off.

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