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Top Dazzlers In Imagine Park

LOS ANGELES — This year’s Imagine Park program — a live TV “show within a show,” now in its fourth year at The Cable Show and designed to shine a light on the hot tickets in cable and broadband technology — served up plenty of sizzle, but a few rose to the top of the list.

Let’s start with FanTV, a new entrant in hardware-based video streamers and by far the most attractive and uniquely designed in the category. (Especially now that the original and very funky Boxee Box is offi cially “tele-vestigial,” meaning no longer on the market.)

FanTV is hands-down gorgeous — swoopy and elegant, with a buttonless remote that fits in the palm of the hand like a smooth rock and perches magnetically on top of the player like some kind of electronic cairn.

Its intent, market-tested with Cox last year and now scheduled to enter Time Warner Cable’s footprint, is to provide subscription and over-the-top video to broadband-only consumers. If you live in a Time Warner Cable market, run-don’twalk to get one when it hits the (retail) market this summer.

Also a gift to the category of television: “Dolby Vision,” an effort by the stalwarts in sound to make HD video brighter, for lack of a visual term.

The set-up: When we think of HD, we think of higher resolution — more pixels. Dolby’s position is that two other dimensions can be manipulated to enhance television, beyond additional pixels: Better pixels and faster pixels. It’s all about improved color gamut (blacker blacks, greener greens) and higher dynamic range. Watch for it to enter the market next year, as it gets licensed by CE and screen manufacturers.

My favorite Imagine Park session this year, even though it hadn’t happened yet at press time: A showcase of innovation coming out of the developmental labs inside Comcast, Liberty Global and Time Warner Cable.

For starters is the fact that these “lab weeks” even exist. All of the MSOs involved sponsor the activities as a way to let their developers stretch their wings, design-wise, then “pitch” their ideas internally throughout the year. It’s Part One of a broader body of work, known as “DevOps,” that blends people from product development and operations. It’s happening as a way to get new services out more quickly by removing the friction that traditionally hamstrings those two groups.

Here’s a partial list of what was scheduled to happen in the Lab Week session: A tablet mosaic that links related, Websourced content to subscription video; cloud-based services on legacy boxes; and a way to take your home phone service with you, internationally, on your mobile.

One other bit of extraordinarily good news coming out of this year’s Cable Show: The NCTA’s annual compilation of tech papers will be available online. Not just this year’s batch — all of them. And they go back for decades. Hallelujah!

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