Preview: Sony LocationFree LF-PK1

6th Feb 2006 | 00:00

Look forward to watching TV over the internet on a PC or PSP

Just as Microsoft's Xbox 360 has been designed to handle music, photos, video and recorded TV, we'll expect similar multimedia mastery from Sony's PlayStation 3. In fact, the US version of PSM magazine has been stirring up the fan-boy excitement with an article that speculates about the PS3's multimedia abilities.

"The PS3 will supposedly have full DVR functionality," report our colleagues at CVG, "meaning you'll be able to digitally record all your favourite TV shows for later viewing in much the same way as Sky . What's more, it seems you can use your PSP to control the DVR functionality."

But that's not the interesting part. At CES, Sony CEO Howard Stringer demonstrated the latest incarnation of its LocationFree technology, which enables you to watch TV over the internet on a PC or PSP.

The system works using a LocationFree base station as a digital hub. This router-style device plugs directly into your content source - typically a broadcast feed, but the package includes an IR blaster for controlling set-top boxes and other AV gadgetry, such as DVD players. The base station then transmits the video signals over a LAN or the internet.

A brave new world

"With a base station connected to your home entertainment system," said Stringer at this year's CES, "you can remotely access personal videos, your DVD collection, television shows recorded on your PVR or even live television broadcasts. LocationFree works remotely with the PlayStation Portable - and indeed also to a VAIO or other PC. You can watch American television from a hotel room in London, or British television from a hotel room in Tokyo."

The current LocationFree technology uses dual band 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi signals for sharing content throughout a home, automatically switching the frequency (i.e. from 2.4GHz to 5GHz) to minimise interference with other wireless devices. The base station will stream MPEG-2 quality video over a LAN, MPEG-4 over a net connection, accessing its content via two video inputs and an RF connection.

Thanks to TiVo, Sky and Media Center, the concept of 'timeshifting' has worked its way into the public consciousness. The LocationFree system, and other similar products (such as the Orb software and the Slingbox), are now pushing the idea of 'placeshifting' - i.e. they give you the ability to access your content beyond the boundaries of the digital home.

Rumour has it that the PS3 will either act as a LocationFree base station itself or be able to support an external LocationFree device like the LF-PK1 pictured here. However it works, the LocationFree technology will ultimately enable PS3 owners to connect and access the music, photos and video on their console.

Sony's LocationFree system is available in Japan and the US, either on its own or with a wireless LCD panel. As yet, there's no word from Sony on a UK release.

Computing Digital home Internet Media Center Networking PlayStation 3 Portable video Router Software TV Wi-Fi Sony
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