One of the holy grails of consumer electronics is to create a wireless networking solution that works seamlessly behind the scenes to link together all your home AV, PC, and mobile gear throughout your house. Silicon Image, the company that brought you the HDMI standard, is on a quest to find that grail and the horse its riding is named LiquidHD.
The folks from Silicon Image are talking up the new technology at CES this year and the basic concept goes something like this: You have a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 connected to a TV in one room and you want to stream audio and video to a TV in another room. Well, if your home is connected to the LiquidHD network, you'll be able to take that high-definition audio and video and move it to any TV in any room--without losing any quality.
Just what the heck is LiquidHD? Well, it's more than just a chip you put into a TV, Blu-ray player, or cable or satellite box. The company says it's, "a suite of protocols that runs over commodity IP networks such as Ethernet, Coax like MoCA, power line like HomePlug, and wireless like Wi-Fi (802.11n)." Yes, that's a mouthful.
According to the press release, the key components include:
*LiquidDiscover: Automatic discovery and authentication of all LiquidHD-enabled devices in the home--just plug it in and the TV automatically discovers your LiquidHD source devices.
*LiquidMedia: High-definition, high-fidelity media streaming from live and stored sources.
*LiquidPixels: Pixel accurate, low latency and low bandwidth remoting of any source device's user interface to any LiquidHD display device. Includes a single remote control at each display to control all source devices on the LiquidHD network.
*LiquidControl: Secure control and communication between all devices.
*LiquidPlay: Comprehensive security and content protection architecture built on a robust hardware solution. Enables consumers to move and play their legally obtained content on any LiquidHD device they own. Also protects CE devices from malevolent attacks by securing the control commands and LiquidPixels remote user interface.
The concept of LiquidHD is admirable, but the challenge for Silicon Image is to get all the CE manufacturers and a lot of other companies to agree to adopt LiquidHD as an international standard and incorporate LiquidHD technology into various devices. That Silicon Image has a track record with HDMI gives it an advantage, but it's still going to be a serious challenge to have companies add new technology--and cost--to their products in a down economy.
Nevertheless, Silicon Image remains optimistic about its chances. It's already released a developer's kit that will allow CE manufacturers and multiple service operators (MSOs) to implement the LiquidHD technology in "residential gateways, master set-top boxes, Blu-ray Disc players and digital video recorders (DVR)." The company also has an endorsement from one major studio, the Fox Group.
All this is pretty technical stuff for the average consumer to digest but the end result would certainly be appealing. Getting there, however, is probably going to take a while. The company hopes to show "real" products with LiquidHD built into them at next year's CES. We'll be there if they do.