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XBMC coders acquire TVonics brand

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Exclusive Key assets once owned by TVonics, the UK digital video recorder maker which collapsed into administration in June 2012, have been acquired by a UK developer with a view to create a set-top box based on the popular open source media player, XBMC.

Peterborough-based Pulse-Eight today said it had bought the TVonics brand, the technology behind the defunct firm’s DVRs and remaining stocks of set-top boxes, which it plans to beginning selling at discount price later this month. The financial terms underpinning the acquisition were not disclosed.

However, Pulse-Eight MD Martin Ellis told The Register that the core DVR IP, including a text-to-speech system created for visually impaired users, has since been transferred to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), which co-developed the technology and launched it with TVOnics in May 2012.

Pulse-Eight has re-licensed the IP from the RNIB, allowing it to continue developing the firmware and ensuring the charity retains ownership and control of boxes' IP.

Ellis said his team is looking to develop the existing TVonics UI and firmware by incorporating further catch-up TV services - it already includes BBC iPlayer - and by building in video-on-demand services. He hopes to sign up the likes of Netflix and Lovefilm. As such services are added, new firmware will be pushed out to boxes over the internet.

In the meantime, Pulse-Eight will soon begin offering TVonics’ twin-tuner, 500GB DTR-HD500 and DTR-Z500HD boxes for over £100 through the company’s existing sales channels, including Amazon, eBay and its own website. Not yet available, the DVRs are set to go on sale later this month. We'll let you know when they do.

Alas, existing owners of boxes lost warranty and support cover in the collapse of TVonics itself. While Pulse-Eight will warrant any DVRs it sells, Ellis said Pulse-Eight was not able to take on full support for TVonics boxes already in users' homes, though he pledged to try and help former TVonics customers, where possible, on a case-by-case basis.

Pulse-Eight makes and sells HDMI-CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) hardware to allow owners of XBMC-running media players to operate the software directly through their TV’s remote control, enabled with the firm's libCEC library. The company is a contributor to both XBMC itself and to the HDMI-CEC spec, Ellis said.

Indeed, while Ellis hopes to recommence the manufacture of the existing TVonics boxes, he is already sketching plans for a next-generation set-top box based on XBMC running on top of Android.

He also said the device will also be designed with the RNIB’s constituency of blind and partially sighted people in mind, with features such as more clearly colour-coded connectors, funnelled ports to aid connect-by-feel cable insertion and removal, and Braille port labelling. ®

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