BD-Live: Worth the Hype?
Last Tuesday, I attended a demonstration of the BD-Live capabilities that will distinguish Disney's Blu-ray release of Sleeping Beauty, the first Disney animated title with these enhancements. Of course, to take advantage of them, you need a BD-Live (aka Profile 2.0) player, of which there are very few so far. In fact, the only ones available as of this writing are the Sony PS3 and Panasonic DMP-BD50, with the Sony BDP-S350 and S550 expected to ship soon.
Perhaps more importantly, Disney also announced the development of the world's first BD-Live network, which is facilitated by a dedicated Web server. Users can play a trivia game with others watching the movie at the same time. They can also text-chat using a laptop, smart phone, or any text-based, Web-enabled device, and the messages appear as an overlay on top of the movie. They can even send pre-recorded video messages from a computer that are also overlaid on the movie. In all cases, participants must agree to be watching the movie at a certain time, and playback is synchronized on all their machines. Engaging in any of these activities accrues reward points that can be redeemed for exclusive content such as avatars, downloadable extras, and other goodies.
Sleeping Beauty and Disney's BD-Live network will be launched on October 7, 2008. Why did Disney announce them so far ahead of the release date? The reps I spoke with said they just wanted to get the word out, but I'm not convinced that it wasn't premature. How many times have we seen announcements of new products far in advance of their actual release? Too many to count, and it has always bred more frustration than anticipation.
Even more problematic for me is the whole notion of gaming, texting, and sending video messages while watching a movie. Granted, I'm a not a youngster who has grown up multitasking like that, but when I watch a movie, I want to watch the movie without being distracted by all that felgercarb. On the other hand, I recognize that families with little kids often watch movies dozens or hundreds of times, so having something new to do as you play the movie for the umpteenth time might be very nice. It also engages watchers in a bit more social interaction than they might otherwise.
The demo also renewed my concern about teens and twenty-somethings multitasking as a matter of course. I hear lots of stories about friends' kids who listen to music, talk on the phone, text-message, watch TV, and do their homework all at the same time. How can they engage fully in any of these activities? How can they learn anything from their schoolwork? I believe this behavioral trend is an important part of the reason that the average attention span seems to be getting shorter, especially among the young.
Maybe the BD-Live features available with Sleeping Beauty and other titles will appeal to some—even many—users. But for others like me, they're mostly a distraction from the reason we love Blu-ray—the potentially stunning quality of the picture and sound.
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