CXO

CES 08: Hands-on with SlingCatcher, SlingPlayer 2.0 & Clip+Sling

I spent an hour on Tuesday morning getting some hand-on demos of all of the upcoming Sling Media products from Dave Zatz.

I had heard a lot of the announcements and saw someone else demo some of the new stuff at Digital Experience on Sunday night. However, it was really nice to be able to actually sit down and play with the products myself, especially getting to see them working together.

SlingCatcher

I got to check out the retail packaging for the SlingCatcher.

The main attraction for me was the SlingCatcher which I had seen demoed earlier in the week. One of the coolest features of SlingCatcher is the ability to get web video content from a PC to your TV via the SlingProjector application. It allows you to "project" an element or area from your PC screen to your TV via the SlingCatcher.

Dave showed me how to take a clip of Conan O'Brien that was playing on hulu.com on his laptop and project it to the TV. Basically, by dragging a blue box around the video window on the hulu website, Dave was able to select the element that he wanted to project. Then, by clicking a small arrow icon on the SlingProjector app, he was able to project the clip to the TV through the connected SlingCatcher. It was very, very cool.

So with SlingProjector, you can go to any of the network websites, like ABC.com or CBS.com or hulu.com, that stream full episodes of their programming and project them in full screen to your TV using the SlingCatcher. No more crowding around a laptop or trying to bring up a browser on a media PC to get online video to your TV.

SlingProjector1

Here is SlingProjector running on a Dell laptop. Notice the blue box around the video. That box defines what to send to the TV.

SlingProjector2

Here is that same region from the laptop "projected" onto a TV across the room using the SlingCatcher.

I also got a sneak peek of SlingPlayer 2.0, the latest version of the desktop app that you use to view your Slingbox streams on your PC. The interface has been overhauled and looks much slicker than the current version (I didn't take any photos because it is still pre-release code and will be changing over the next few weeks). They have added DVR functionality so that you can store up to 60 minutes of your video stream for pausing rewinding and fast-forwarding. They've integrated your cable or satellite box's programming guide. There are also some ease of use improvements like using a single Sling login for all of your Slingboxes. However, the big attraction for me is the new Clip+Sling functionality.

Clip+Sling lets you snag clips from shows or commercials you are viewing in SlingPlayer and share them via e-mail or the web. I had read about the functionality; however, this was the first time I got to see it in action.

So let's say you're watching an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" in SlingPlayer 2.0 and you see a scene that you want to share with someone. You can click the new "Pause" button on SlingPlayer and then drag a slider under the video window to find the beginning of the clip you want to share. When you find the right spot, click the "Scissors" icon to mark it. Next, drag the slider to find the end of the clip. Clicking the scissors again will mark the end of your clip. The interface is very intuitive and it takes about 5 seconds to complete the process.

After defining the clip you want to share, a "Camera" icon pops up that lets you choose which frame you want to use as the video thumbnail that your friends will see in the e-mail or on the Sling website. This was nice, unexpected touch.

Once your clip and thumbnail are defined, you simply fill in some metadata about the clip (title, description, etc) and to whom you want to send it. SlingPlayer will now upload the clip to the Sling website and send an e-mail alert to the friends you specified. It will also keep a list of all of your clips so you can watch them any time you'd like.

That, by itself, would be pretty cool. However, Sling took it a step further to make sure that all of your clips are also available on your TV. There is a menu option in SlingCatcher called "Sling.com" that gives you access to all of your Clip+Sling clips. So you can view and share clips using SlingPlayer on your PC; however, you can also kick back and enjoy those clips from the comfort of your sofa. Very cool.

SlingCatcher was the best product that I saw at CES. I will definitely be picking up a SlingCatcher once it is released in Q2 of 2008.

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