In this age of PVRs, Bit-Torrent downloads and podcasting, it’s possible to argue that plain old broadcast television has had its day. Unless it’s something you really have to watch live, like a football match, why should people be forced to watch what’s on at the time instead of consuming what they want at the time of their choosing.
So while we wait for TV on demand to become the de-facto delivery medium, SlingMedia’s SlingBox is a clever device that promises to make TV seem fresh again. Why? It enables you to watch your TV from anywhere in the world as long as you have Internet access. That's cool.
The Slingbox was born out of frustration after the founders of the company found themselves unable to watch their beloved baseball, basketball or ‘Football’ team, (or whatever sport it is that seems fascinate Americans so much), when they were on holiday. This gave them the idea of using the Internet to bring their home TV to them. SlingMedia calls it ‘placeshifting’.
So how does it work? It’s actually quite simple. The Slingbox is a small box that connects to your cable or satellite set-top box, and then to your home router. The Slingbox takes the incoming TV signal from the set-to box and encodes it on the fly into a Windows Media video stream. Once you’ve installed some software onto your PC or laptop you can then access that TV stream, whether you’re sitting in the same room as your set-top box or in an amphitheatre in Rome. The Slingbox is a one on one experience though – only one person can access it at one time, so you can’t share your TV with a group of friends.
The requirements then are that you have a router and a fast enough connection in your home to upload the video stream and a decent Internet connection to access the stream when you’re outside of your home network. Anyone with broadband connection with an upload speed of 300Kbps should be fine. The great thing about the software is that the faster the connection at either end, the better the picture quality. This is because the SlingPlayer software can automatically adjust the bit-rate to give you the best viewing experience.
The icing on the cake is that you can remotely control your set-top box as if you’re sitting in front of it. The candles on top of the cake are that you don’t even need a set-top box as the Slingbox has a built-in DVB-T tuner. This has been especially added for the UK specific version of the Slingbox and it’s great to see a US company taking the time and trouble to create a truly version specific version of its product rather than just assume that what’s fine in the US works across the pond.