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Glass Houses | BD-Touch for the iPhone: BD-Live's Killer App?
Posted Sep 28, 2009 Print Version     Page 1of 1

BD-Live is tricky. It has a lot of promise, but the industry seems to be struggling to figure out what its killer app will be. The latest, and perhaps most promising contender: connecting the physical world with the mobile world. This is not necessarily a new concept, but perhaps now with an easy way to accomplish the task, studios will be more likely to offer rich BD-Live content. Could it be BD Touch, which connects Blu ray to mobile devices? Quite possibly. NetBlender originally introduced BD Touch last year, but at NAB 2009 they kicked up the application a notch with their own iPhone app. "What we realized is that iPhone is Wifi-enabled," says NetBlender CEO John Harrington. "Blu-ray players have a BD Live connection which allows you to essentially leverage your home network. We decided there was no reason the two devices couldn’t talk to each other and for the first time create a multi-screen experience in the home."

The initial BD Touch release was aimed at the high-end developer. The BD edition of Highlander: Season One was authored using NetBlender's DoStudio authoring suite. It's a BD Touch-enabled disc set with an array of supplementary materials: facts, bios, and bonus videos that fans can download to their iPhone or iPod Touch and take with them. Last year’s release of Iron Man in France also utilized BD Touch. On that title, users were allowed to download trailers and play a game integrated into the movie.

In light of those releases, NetBlender took feedback to heart over the last year. A popular sentiment was that BD Touch was a fascinating technology and a great way to leverage BD-Live, but studios were not going to build an iPhone app for every movie they put out because there was just too much overhead. So NetBlender brought down the overhead with its own iPhone application. "We've made it very easy for studios to implement BD-Touch," says Harrington.

What’s new about the latest BD Touch? One key feature is that it provides remote control features. If you’ve ever tried to access BD-Live features, you know you have to log in and create a user name. Entering that information with a Blu-ray remote control is a disaster, according to Harrington. "Blu-ray remotes are rudimentary. Entering the info with an iPhone gives you text input, a full keyboard, and it simplifies this basic, mundane task; more intelligent interface."
Even more interesting, though, is the file transfer capability of BD Touch. Primarily, studios have been packaging digital versions and mobile content on discs for a while, but there hasn’t been a great way to get the content onto your mobile device. BD Touch enables a wireless transfer of audio/video clips, wallpapers, and images with weblinks for promotions and ads. "It opens up a whole other way to interact with a viewer because now you can reach right into their pockets and offer content to take with them and keep them engaged when they are not actually sitting in front of the Blu-ray player," Harrington says.

The industry is looking for ways to encourage people to take advantage of what Blu-ray has to offer in much in the same way we were looking for ways to make DVD-ROM take off a decade ago. When you think back to the DVD-ROM days of extra content on the DVD, there was always the hassle factor of having to take your disc and put it into the computer, at which point you could just as easily typed a web address. Who needs the disc? But BD Touch makes the connection between the physical and online worlds hassle-free. "Having this intelligent mobile device in your lap while you are actually watching a disc, and engaging the special features on the disc makes the disc come to life," Harrington argues. "BD Touch brings a lot of extra exploratory activity into the living room at the time when you are really into the activity, rather than hours later when you have the opportunity to put the disc in your player."

Multiple handheld devices can also integrate with a single BD disc simultaneously, which means users can play multi-player games. All of the extras can be brought in realtime to a mobile device people are already heavily attached to: their phones or their iPod Touch.

By November, NetBlender expects dozens of titles to be released with the BD Touch feature. BD Touch has been built into NetBlender's Do Studio Blu-ray authoring application. The remote control functionality is on by default when you author a disc in Do Studio, and the file transfer capability can be activated with an additional license fee. Also, the BD Touch API allows for easy integration with any BD-J-enabled Blu-ray Disc authored with Sony Blu-print or Sonic Scenarist as well.

NetBlender has partnered with BluFocus, LLC to deliver BD Touch to the home entertainment marketplace. Together, NetBlender and BluFocus have formed BD Touch, LLC, which is the business entity that licenses the BD Touch APIs. BluFous is a QC firm in Burbank which verifies BD-J (and other) titles as well. "They are our Hollywood liason who works with studios on a daily basis," says Harrington.

NetBlender is currently building a Blackberry app, and plans to have a BD Touch app for all WiFi-enabled smart phones by NAB 2010. Beyond that, NetBlender still offers its big SDK for developers that really gives you access if you want to take advantage of the accelerometer, GPS location features, and so forth when building a custom application that can work with your Blu-ray title.

Debbie Galante Block (debgalante at is a freelance writer based in Mahopac, NY.

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