Release notes posted at Verizon.com
FiOS TV: Interactive Media Guide 1.9 Release Notes
by Joe_Ambeault on 04-14-2011 10:12 AM - last edited on 04-14-2011 10:44 AM
Editor's Note: Joe Ambeault will answer your FiOS TV questions on Wednesday, April 20 at noon and 8 p.m. EDT when he is featured on "Meet the Expert" in the Verizon Community Forums. To learn how you can participate, please visit: http://*******/gGtqYU
In keeping with our commitment to provide FiOS TV viewers with information about modifications and enhancements to their service, we are providing release notes for version 1.9 of the Interactive Media Guide (IMG) software for your FiOS TV DVR and set-top boxes. IMG 1.9 is beginning its verizon.comdeployment activities in Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany and Harrisburg. It will be delivered to the rest of the FiOS TV markets over the next couple months.
This post is intended to summarize the release notes we use internally in language the rest of us can comprehend (i.e. replacing the inane acronyms and technical jargon with plain English).
IMG 1.9 is a feature release and is entirely focused on implementing capabilities that our customers have been requesting through Verizon Forums, Twitter, Facebook, letters and emails to Verizon leadership, the Test Track program, etc. There are minor changes to how we handle the delivery of applications to the set-top box as well as some corrections to software issues. But the majority of the enhancements came straight from FiOS TV viewers, and we greatly appreciate the time many of you took to tell us how to make a great service even better.
We also want to take a moment before diving into the release notes to give a shout out to our sneak peek customers who volunteered their TV's and time to work with us since December to finish IMG 1.9 development. These FiOS TV viewers helped us make sure that by the time the software got to you all it provided an amazing and high quality experience. Many heartfelt thanks.
The IMG 1.9 release is not supported by digital adapters (Motorola DCT 700), like all the historical IMG releases. Unlike past guide releases, IMG 1.9 is also not supported by a small number of standard-definition set-top boxes (Motorola QIP 2500 P1 and P2). These devices will remain on their current version of guide software. All other Motorola and Cisco set-top boxes will be upgraded to IMG 1.9 through an automatic software download. No action is required on your part.
IMG 1.9 is our most significant upgrade to FiOS TV's guide since we introduced the Interactive Media Guide in 2007. There were few portions of the guide software that weren't enhanced in this release.
New look and feel with higher resolution graphics and smooth animations*
Re-design of search and better integration throughout the guide
Expansion of guide data to include complete cast information and air date
New Channel Guide view providing another option for navigating live TV content
Recommendations for live TV content
Ability to select the Widgets that are displayed in the carousel
More parental control tools and a configuration wizard
Overhaul of Message Center
Improved 3DTV support
Support for Descriptive Video Service, native pass through, 1080p, and MP3 and MPEG-4 decoding on select devices.
A long list of DVR and multi-room DVR enhancements
Even more ways to customize the guide to your personal preferences
In the following sections of the releases notes, we'll dive deeper into several of these areas.
New Look & Feel
Perhaps one of the most requested enhancements to the IMG has been an HD canvas for the graphical user interfaces (GUI's). IMG 1.8 and its predecessor releases have offered users interfaces in a 4:3 aspect ratio that did not fill the 16:9 HD TV screens.
Motorola 7100 and 7232 set-top boxes as well as Cisco HD capable devices will fill your HDTV screen end-to-end with higher resolution graphics presenting more information per page view. The 480 resolution graphics from previous releases have been upgraded to 1080 resolution.
As well you will notice smooth animations as you navigate the user interfaces and transition from menu to menu. My favorite example of the more sophisticated graphics and introduction of smooth scrolling animations is definitely the new Widgets carousel.
Unfortunately, try as we might, we were not able to provide support for HD canvas GUI's and smooth scrolling animations on Motorola 6200 and 6416 devices due to graphics processing limitations of the hardware. Of course, this HD canvas feature is not available on standard-definition set-top boxes, because the devices and the TV screens they are connected to do not support high definition graphics and 16:9 aspect ratio.
Next Generation Search
A feature that has been core to the Interactive Media Guide is search. Unlike other systems that execute the search locally on the set-top box severely limiting its capabilities, FiOS TV search employs powerful servers that are distributed throughout our network. These search engines use technology commonly employed on the Internet, but have been optimized for access through a TV screen.
One of the benefits of this Internet technology is that it enables the ability to search across live TV, DVR recordings and Video on Demand with one query. With the growth of Widgets we have extended the search index to also include TV applications with the other content types. Search for weather and the results will present a link to the TV application from Weatherbug as well as any TV shows / channels or movies that are relevant to that keyword.
The biggest change you will notice about search is that it is much more readily available throughout the entire guide. Historically to access search you had to navigate away from whatever view was being displayed to the main menu and then select search.
With IMG 1.9, a simple click of the blue B' button on the remote control and you are instantly accessing the search engine.
Once you are in search you will find entering text for keyword searches much less painful with the introduction of predictive type and recent / saved searches.
As you enter characters, the search application will present possible options that are refined with each new character entered. Once you see your option simply arrow up to select it and more quickly find the content you are seeking. And to avoid text entry in the future you can save up to 25 searches to access again later with a couple quick clicks. If you don't save the query, the new application will also keep up to 10 of your recent keywords readily available for quick access during future searches.
The new IMG 1.9 search application supports a wealth of filters that improve the power of this content discovery tool. Click options and you can select from one of 16 filters to refine the search results. Select HD and your results will only include content that is available in HD. Or select Flex View and your results will be filtered to present just the content you can view on your TV, computer and mobile devices, reducing the number of clicks to enjoy the show or movie you desire. Set the filter to Now, and the results will only display choices that can be viewed immediately.
Pay Per View
On Demand HD
Additional Content Discovery Tools
Beyond improved search capabilities there have been other additions to the IMG that will help you find content.
We have added a Channel Guide view of TV listings to the existing Full, Half and Mini guide views. The Channel Guide allows you to more quickly flip through channels to see what's currently on as well as upcoming shows.
Further you can customize which of these are presented when you hit the Guide button on the remote control. Set the Full Guide to launch with the first click and set the Channel Guide to launch on the second clickor whatever combination you want for primary and secondary preferences.
The recommendation engine that has historically been employed for only On Demand content will also be available for live TV content in this release. With more like this for live TV, you can link from shows and movies you like to other content that is similar.
Another request from FiOS TV viewers was the ability to more easily find high-definition channels. CNN is channel 100, but CNN HD is channel 600. So we added a prompt to the info bar for when you tune to standard definition content that is also available in HD. Simply click the C' button and the set-top box will automatically tune to the HD version of the channel.
Further, the program information screens will also present watch in SD or watch in HD options to make it easier to discover high definition content.
Probably the most requested content discovery tool centered on the ability to quickly set Favorites to only those channels you have as part of your subscription. On the Verizon Idea Exchange this feature is the third most popular post. So, with IMG 1.9 you can select a Favorites list that is automatically generated based on the channels in your subscription, just like we have with IMG 1.8 for HD channels. No more hand crafting the Favorites list.
We hear consistently that Parental Controls are important to many FiOS TV viewers, but see that very few set-top boxes actually have them enabled.
For IMG 1.9 we introduce two usability improvements that we hope will enable more households to take advantage of tools intended to control the content certain members of the family consume.
The first is a simple wizard that asks about the ages of the children in your home and then automatically configures the controlsno expertise in the different TV show and movie rating approaches needed.
This wizard will also be easy to find. If you do not have Parental Controls set on your set-top box, you will be prompted to configure them when accessing adult or Internet (i.e. Widgets) content.
Also you can now set the Parental Controls across all the set-top boxes in your home without having to configure them on each device independently, reducing the amount of effort to block content that may be inappropriate for certain members of the family.
And last is the ability to block access by day and time. These settings allow you to set day and time restrictions that block members of your household from viewing channels or using any FiOS TV features. When the day / time restrictions are enabled, viewers cannot access, browse or navigate through the IMG. Also they will not be able to view any content. A black screen with a lock icon is displayed on the screen, which can be unlocked by entering the correct 4-digit PIN. This feature allows users to create restricted time periods with a start and end time of any given day of the week to block all programming. You can create up to 10 restricted time periods per set top box.
Message Center is poised to take on an expanded role with IMG 1.9. When it launches, IMG 1.9 will include more sophisticated messages from Verizon to you about your FiOS TV service, but shortly after we have upgraded everyone to IMG 1.9, Message Center will integrate with your communication services from Verizon.
When a new message from Verizon arrives, you will be alerted more clearly than in previous guide releases. These messages can also be targeted to specific set-top boxes, so you'll only receive information that is relevant to you. And last you will be able to take action from the message with a simple click of the remote control, like tuning to a new HD channel, accessing On Demand content or launching a new TV application.
Following the IMG 1.9 we will upgrade Message Center to include access to call history, voicemail and the ability manage your voice services from the TV (e.g., call forwarding, incoming call block and my favoritedo not disturb).
Cisco set-top boxes that are HD capable and Motorola 7000 series devices will automatically configure your 3DTV to the proper 3D mode, based on the content being viewed. So you won't have to navigate the TV screen's menu to select top bottom or side to side 3D mode before enjoying the content.
If you have a Motorola 6000 series, then unfortunately you will have to continue using the TV screen's menu system to set the 3D mode.
IMG 1.9 provides even more ways to simply click a button to purchase more content or resolve a problem, saving you from having to pick up the phone.
Of particular note is a new troubleshooting tool that I think demonstrates the power of the FiOS TV platform: the remote control low battery indicator. If the set-top box detects this state, you will get a visual indicator to replace the batteries.
This feature is only supported on the most recent FiOS TV remotes that were introduced at the end of last year.
DVR and Multi-room DVR
Last, but certainly not least based on feedback from many of you, are the enhancements to the DVR and multi-room DVR.
First is the top request from FiOS TV viewers, which is the ability to expand storage using external drives. This is supported on the Cisco DVR's as well as Motorola 7000 series DVR's. This feature is not supported by the Motorola 6416 and 2708.
While we have done nothing to block plugging in any eSATA drive to the DVR's, if you use a drive that has not been qualified by Verizon then we will not be able to support any potential problems. Please also be aware that we found several units that did not work properly due to the extreme sustained I/O performance required to support this application.
We plan to continually increase the number of qualified units, but at launch we will support Western Digital My Book AV DVR Expander 500GB and 1TB. A 2TB drive is currently in qualification as well as drives from other manufacturers. As those are qualified we will publish them on www.verizon.com
The DVR will also include a history of its activities to provide you insight to what it was doing while you were away. This feature will also reduce duplicate recordings, because the DVR will remember what it has recorded as opposed to only having reference to what is currently on local storage.
We are also introducing options for the folders. You will be able to select options like delete all or play all for recorded content contained in folders.
On the multi-room DVR front the most exciting advancement is for those of you that have more than one DVR. IMG 1.9 enables DVR's to access each other's recordings. With this capability and external storage expansion any HD set-top box or DVR in your home could theoretically have access to terabytes of recordings.
We have also enabled the ability to manage DVR recordings from any HD set-top box in the home, which has been a popular request from FiOS TV viewers with Home Media DVR service.
Additionally the DVR will support an undelete feature allowing you to restore recordings that were deleted similar to the recycling bin on your computer.
Also a popular request for new DVR features was the ability to extend a recording while it is in progress. This option has been added to the Program Info page and Context Sensitive Menu. Extend Live Recording enables you to extend an active recording by 1 minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes and 1hour.
The last new feature for DVR is automatic chapter creation that let's you easily jump around a recording. Bring up the info bar and you'll see thumbnails for scenes in the recordings. Select a scene and jump right to it. More ways to get to what you want faster.
There are many more enhancements to the IMG that I couldn't cover in this post. The internal release notes are nearly 100 eye straining pages long. If I didn't cover an enhancement you wanted in this post chances are it's in this release... take some time and explore once you are upgraded. As always we welcome feedback here, on the Idea Exchange and Twitter.
We are committed to maintaining an open dialogue with our customers from ideation through development and deployment, so please don't hesitate to let us know how we are doing. We may not be able to respond to all of your requests, but are committed to collaborating on a best path forward for all of us.
* high definition resolution graphics and smooth animations require Cisco HD capable set-top boxes or Motorola 7000 series devices