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  1. Technology
June 17, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

Philips Interactive Media Systems has been pressing home the money to be made out of CDI or compact diskinteractive, an extension of CDROM which combines text, music, speech, and video. The system incorporates full motion full screen video and is described as a television that the viewer controls. Philips’ machine for the home consumer market can be plugged into the television, or added to a compact disk player. It enables the viewer to choose which part of the disk to watch. For example, one disk, which is the equivalent of the Smithsonian Institute’s guide, allows the viewer to decide which of the 9,000 exhibits on the disk he or she wishes to see. It provides a commentary on each exhibit and animates about half of them, with some special effects such as peeling back the shell of the world’s fastest bicycle to reveal the engineering involved. At any point the viewer can stop the disk, and find out more about a particular piece of information. The machine will be controlled via a remote control handset. Philips intends to have its first CDI player for the home market out in the US towards the end of this year, followed by Japan and the UK around April 1991. But if the players are to avoid the same fate as laser videodisk players, the company needs to ensure that there is a wide enough choice of software available in the shops. Having learned, they say, from the videodisk experience, which despite being the first on video machine market, fell behind video cassette recorders when people realised that tapes were not only cheaper but provided greater choice, Philips has set up software development centre in Dorking, Surrey and is trying to encourage people to turn their talents to producing disks. The centre will try to attract creative types who also know enough about technology to make a disk. As well as providing bureau services for disk producers at the centre, Philips is also trying to encourage them with tool sets for disk development. The sets come in three levels, from a starter pack to kit which includes a Sun Sparc emulator, providing a distributed networked architecture. At the moment there are around 100 CDI disks in production, mostly in the US, and Philips hopes that there will be about 70 available in the US at the time of the launch there. Retail prices for disks can be as low as that of a hardback book the Smithsonian disk costs $50, the same as its coffee table equivalent. Philips is confident that by speaking the language of creative people, it can help to generate enough of the software so crucial to the Compact DiskInteractive player’s success. – Sonya McGilchrist

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