FEATURE TOPIC: ENTERTAINMENT EVERYWHERE: System and Networking Issues in Emerging Network-Centric Entertainment Systems
The experience of bringing the Internet into our lives deeply is now shared by millions of people. Take the USA, for example. It is reported that more than a fifth of American households has a high-speed, always-on, Internet access, and an increasing number of them is exploiting wireless technologies to distribute the broadband connection throughout the rooms of their homes. With such a high-speed, always-on, connection a drastic revolution is coming in the way people watch movies and news, listen to music, and play games. This change has been driven fundamentally by two dominant factors: First, the technological advances of computer-based digital multimedia technology (high quality video and sound) have provided consumers with good motivations to upgrade their home entertainment systems (e.g., from mechanical VHS tape drives to digital DVD). Second, (wireless) networking technologies have enabled the possibility to shift what they first consumed on their desktop PC in the office to their digital TV equipment in the living room, as well as to the front pockets in their jackets. All these mean that in an entertainment-equipped house we might easily find a broadband entertainment center built on the top of a Cat-6 Ethernet cable infrastructure or on a Wi-Fi network. Such an entertainment platform might be comprised, for example, of a connection from the computer to the digital stereo or the TV devices, as well as of an interconnected PlayStation2 or XBox governed by programmable TiVo equipment for online play. In essence, what is really new, nowadays, is that we know what tomorrow's entertainment technology will bring to us: a "magic box" where every game ever thought, every movie ever made, every song ever sung, plus news, sport events and shows, will be available for instant enjoyment with just one click on a button. While interest for conducting research in this area was moderate for a long time, recently, instead, great opportunities have arisen in academia, as well as in industry, for developing researches in the field of computer-based entertainment systems, especially focused on the provision of networking and system support to entertainment. Obviously, all these exciting technological advances have raised a number of interesting research questions: How can the Internet native language (i.e. the TCP/IP protocol) take over this complex scenario for scaling the delivery of entertainment contents to very large numbers of users? How can digital entertainment be delivered efficiently to small devices such as PDAs and cell phones? How can new system development styles, like the peer-to-peer style for example, have influence on the architecture of computer-based entertainment systems? How can the employed protocol be integrated to optimize the distribution of entertainment contents?