VM Labs’ new technology puts entertainment media together One of the early live-video interactive games, "Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective," has gained a second life with the help of NUON technology.
Feb. 7 — Everybody knows that Sony’s PlayStation2 will be a game console that plays movies. Fewer people know about a new line of DVD movie decks that will play games.
TOSHIBA, MOTOROLA, Samsung, and Raite Optoelectronics (pronounced “Rite”) have announced plans to manufacture DVD movie players with a new technology called NUON that will enable them to play games. Developed by Silicon Valley-based VM Labs, NUON (which was previously known as Merlin and Project X) is a technology that adds interactivity to digital products. As VM Labs and its partners demonstrated at this month’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, it does much more than play games.
A LANGUAGE OF THEIR OWN
‘NUON allowed us to accept things like MP3 as they come into the market with a software solution. It also gave us maximum flexibility in getting services to consumers by giving us programmable architecture.’
— ROGER KOZLOWSKI Motorola media systems division director of strategic alliances VM Labs spokespeople have long befuddled the video game-covering press by using a different lexicon of terms than other game companies. Sony and Nintendo talk about megahertz and polygons; VM Labs people have generally spoken about MIPS (millions of instructions per second), flares, and Caviar Voxel non-polygonal 3D graphics. Whereas Sega spokespeople are practically bursting at the seams to talk about benchmarks, VM Labs people refuse to define their technology by benchmarks. Talking technology with VM Labs people is so frustrating that you sometimes expect to have an aneurysm on the spot. Ulcer-causing or not, they do have a point. NUON is a versatile technology that addresses gaming, among other tasks. Motorola, for instance, has incorporated NUON with Power PC technology (which Motorola refers to as “DigitalDNA”) into its Streamaster Mustang series of set-top boxes to add Internet access and movie viewing options. “NUON allowed us to accept things like MP3 as they come into the market with a software solution,” says Motorola media systems division director of strategic alliances Roger Kozlowski. “It also gave us maximum flexibility in getting services to consumers by giving us programmable architecture.” Used in conjunction with NUON-enhanced movie discs, VM Labs technology also provides consumers with a powerful viewing interface that offers new options such as changing camera angles. It also enables users to access extra features such as games and scripts that might otherwise require a computer. Most importantly, according to Kozlowski, NUON brings consumers this power and versatility at an affordable price. “Compared to other solutions, the cost of NUON does not appreciatively add to the price of the final deck. If you want interactive DVD, NUON offers the most cost effective solution. We are not targeting the loss-leader DVD market.” “NUON does two things: it expands DVD capability and it makes programmable architecture available to consumer OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers).” It would appear that adding NUON technology to DVD decks does not drive up the cost. In April, Taiwan-based Raite Optoelectronics is releasing the RDP-741 NUON-enhanced DVD player for the fairly standard price of $299. (It should be noted that the “loss leader” units that Kozlowski alluded to sell for as low as $179.) Samsung’s first NUON player, the N2000, a higher-end unit, will retail for $499.
AS A GAMING PLATFORM
Among the games available in a NUON version is a version of the classic Atari game Tempest. As a gaming platform, NUON’s performance seems fairly competitive with the current generation of consoles. Legendary Atari designer Jeff Minter has designed a NUON version of the arcade classic Tempest that is fast, furious, and visually stunning, but does not necessarily appear to be out of reach for current PlayStation technology. Additional games that have been announced include Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective and Dracula Unleashed — two early full-motion video games that appeared on the PC market in the early 1990s as multimedia became a household word; Myst, the biggest-selling CD-ROM game of all time; Merlin Karting, a Mario Kart-esque racing game; and an interactive version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
It should be noted that NYKO Technologies and other peripheral companies that are generally associated with gaming have announced plans to make joysticks and other game peripherals for NUON-enhanced DVD players. If VM Labs was somehow hoping to compete against Sony and Nintendo with its NUON technology, the company has made a mistake. Consumers looking for the latest and greatest video game-playing equipment are unlikely to be excited by hardware that functions as well as the current PlayStation and plays games like Myst and Dracula Unleashed. This, however, does not seem to be VM Labs’ goal. The purpose of NUON seems to be giving movie enthusiasts a chance to do more than watch movies; and judged by this standard, NUON may well measure up.
NUON - The Scoop
NUON™ Delivers Total Video Entertainment
As entertainment technologies quickly converge, media-hungry consumers expect much more from their televisions. DVD players powered by the NUON media processor meet and exceed con-sumerexpectations by delivering a variety of spectacular interactive content while revolutionizing the way consumers interact with their televisions. With NUON, consumers will have access to a variety of media-rich applications including:
NUON Enhanced DVD Movies
3-D Video Games
Multi-player Network Games
Edutainment & Education
Internet Web Browsing & Email
Unparalleled Support for Industry Standards
New entertainment technologies are being introduced at a startling rate. Frantically trying to keep pace with emerging standards, DVD manufacturers using hard-wired silicon solutions must wait as their IC vendors scramble to spin new silicon. The implications of these delays are drastic. Since NUON is a software programmable media processor, these delays are virtually eliminated. While the competition waits helplessly for new silicon to arrive, NUON gives programmers the opportunity to quickly create the software code that will deliver the new standards ahead of schedule. Standards supported by NUON
DVD-Video, VideoCD, CD-DA
MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, NTSC, PAL, Sub-picture video
Dolby™ AC-3, Dolby ProLogic™, DTS™, LPCM, Spatializer™,
CD-DA, HDCD™, CD-TEXT, DVD Audio, MP-3, S/PDIF
Creativity Without Constraints
With access to 16 million colors, 256 levels of transparency, anti-aliased scaled fonts and multiple 2D and 3D rendering engines, programmers and artists are free to design a completely custom environment. By supporting familiar languages such as C/C++ and HTML, programmers are given the freedom to develop specialized Graphical User Interfaces, differentiating new features, and
cutting-edge software applications for NUON.
With this kind of flexibility, NUON products not only stand-out from the competition, but allow OEMs to differentiate products across a company’s entire digital video prod-uct line using the same media processor. Product lines can be created by simply incor-porating different software, yielding varying degrees of features. As a product matures, it is possible to upgrade existing hardware by issuing a software change or upgrade.
NUON™ is More Than a Media Processor
NUON defines the standard for interactive content in the living room.Representing a significant advancement in DVD, NUON delivers enhanced interac-tive DVD movies, video-enabled interactive audio,high-performance video games and Internet connectivity. Motion picture studio endorsement is impelled by the desire to offer extra assets and interactivity to consumers, without having to negotiate the pitfalls of the PC world. Video game, edutainment, and new-media
developers and publishers recognize NUON as the prodigy interactive family platform for the living room.
Through strategic retail positioning of NUON enhanced hardware, software and peripherals, the association of NUON with the highest quality video entertainment experience cultivates consumer confidence and brand recognition. Awareness of NUON brand reputation is conveyed to any product promoting the name; from
NUON enhanced DVD players to NUON enhanced digital set-tops.
NUON™ DVD Features
Smooth Shuttle, Slow and Fast Forward, Rewind, Zoom, Pan and Scan Picture in Graphics, Video Scaling, Graphics Overlay Wide screen, Letterbox, Multi-Angle, Closed Caption 16 Million Color User Interface / On-screen Display
256 Levels of Transparency with Alpha Blending Advanced DVD Karaoke
NUON™ After-Market Applications and Peripherals
NUON Enhanced DVD Movies
NUON Video Games
CD Audio Interactive Video Light Show
Game Controllers, Keyboards, Modems, Printers
Multi-player Network Game Support