home  previous   next 
The Tenth Annual Interactive Music Conference
brainstorming graphic

Group Report: Design Features of a Mass Market Living Room PC

Participants: A.K.A. "Couch Potato Accelerators"

Jim Barber; Sonic Focus

Dan Bogard; SigmaTel
Howard Brown; ATI Mike D’Amore; Kensei Consulting, LLC.
Tom Kite; Audio Precision Paul Perrault; Analog Devices
Terry Ritchie; DTS Facilitator: Van Webster; Webster Communications

Problem Statement

The average consumer is not ready for a fully populated PC in the living room.

Discussion and Proposed Solution

The average consumer (mass market buyer) is not ready for a fully populated PC in the living room!

  • At work they typically have an IT department / person to take care of problems like not being able to find lost files or programs, and perform backups.
  • They typically depend upon a “knowledgeable” friend or relative to assist with the same issues on their home computer
    • Their home desktop is “icon heavy” – i.e. they are afraid to delete un-needed shortcuts on their desktop for fear of ruining something, or deleting something they didn’t intend to.
  • They already have a full complement of entertainment equipment in place. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • Hi-fi gear
      • Stereo speakers with subwoofer
        • Dreaming about a surround sound system
      • Surround sound system
        • Most likely purchased as an all- in-one system, i.e. receiver “matched” with speakers manufactured by a single source.
      • CD player
      • Multiple video players:
        • DVD and VHS player
          • May or may not be connected to the hi-fi system
      • Radio
      • NOTE: All hi-fi equipment is most likely from a single source and single manufacturer.
    • Large screen TV
      • NOT necessarily widescreen
      • NOT necessarily HDTV “ready or otherwise”
      • NOT necessarily with a computer input
    • Cable / satellite / DSL / terrestrial TV service
      • May include a DVR / PVR
      • May or my not be connected to the hi-fi system
    • NOTE: Most entertainment equipment has not been moved since the day it was set up

This is NOT to say that the present designs of PCs – media PCs or otherwise – do not have faults of their own in their desirability to be moved to the living room!

  • They have a generic rather than targeted UI
    • This is very similar to the UI that they have at work and on their home computer which they work at.
  • It is too flexible – e.g. you can do spreadsheets on it – but who wants to do that in the living room?
  • It’s too expensive!
    • They already have a home computer
    • They already have “entertainment equipment” in the living room
  • It’s too complex to use!
    • Too many steps to “simply listen to CDs”


…we NEED and WANT a conduit for providers of hardware, services and software! This includes but is not limited to such current and future consumer buzz features as VoIP, MP3 collections, video phone, IPTV / eTV / iTV, etc…


…how do we “wedge” into the living room a PC for which there is no apparent need or desire, and is “feared” by the average consumer?

Our solution…

It is our opinion that the form factor and operation of the Living Room PC must change to make it extremely easy for the average consumer to operate, and to protect them from “typical” PC errors and bad habits developed on “normal” PCs, while at the same time offering all the expandability, functions and features of the standard PC.

An OEM would need to start with a readily available PC platform, but add the following:

1. Dual OS mode capability:

a. Allow the consumer to access ONLY necessary functions – TV tuner, transport controls, volume, playback device selection, etc.:

i. Preferably utilizing hard buttons on the unit itself and a remote control that is compatible with standard CE remotes.

ii. Does not require a mouse and keyboard

1. Has a dedicated display (CE-style) so that a computer monitor is not necessary to use these features.

2. Does not require the remote to function. All control functions accessible via dedicated buttons, knobs etc. on the unit itself.

b. Allow the consumer to access “advanced” features and functions – i.e. standard PC operation:

i. ONLY via a “Super User Mode” which is not accessed via a single button but hidden, behind a combination of buttons

ii. Requires a mouse and keyboard

iii. This mode cannot “accidentally” be accessed, nor can the computer boot to this mode under normal operation.

1. User can boot to this mode only via the DVD device, with a special DVD, meant to set up and troubleshoot the device

2. MUST be designed from the CE market standpoint – NOT from the computer market standpoint:

a. Aesthetics:

i. Vertical vs. horizontal orientation

1. MUST have standard CE orientation, dimensions, wiring, connectors etc…

a. Must be mountable in standard IAE rack.

ii. Standard RCA or digital connectors for I/O of other CE devices

1. MINI JACKS of any kind should not exist on the LRPC!

2. Proprietary computer market connectors must be positioned only on the rear plane, and must be clearly marked

3. Shared computer and CE market connectors MAY be positioned on the front of the unit (USB, 1394)

iii. Required knobs, buttons and labeling using CE terminology, positioning and orientation ON the unit itself

iv. CE colors (black, platinum) must be offered

v. ALL labeling of buttons, knobs, and connectors must use standard CE market nomenclature.

b. Data I/O:

i. A bootable DVD device should be standard on all LRPCs

ii. All other data I/O to be handled via standard connectors on the rear of the unit.

c. Fan noise / heat dissipation:

i. The typical PC fan is too noisy to be housed in the living room.

ii. Design must take into consideration that the consumer WILL place the LRPC on top of, or underneath other CE devices which can and will suffocate any “standard” PC design venting.

iii. LRPC noise should be equivalent to a standard high end receiver.

d. Expandability:

i. The LRPC must be expandable from both the standard PC standpoint and from the CE install market standpoint.

1. The LRPC must be able to access, control, and be controlled by CE devices.

2. The LRPC must be able to “fit” into a multi-room audio/video distribution system using industry standard methodologies.

section 6

next section

select a section:
1. Introduction  2. Speakers  3. Executive Summary  
4. Using a Multiplicity of Audio Devices in the Home PC
5. New Approaches for Developing Interactive Audio Production Systems
6. Design Features of a Mass Market Living Room PC
7. Ubiquitous Content Distribution to and within the Home
8. Improving Computer Audio and Music Production Systems User Interfaces
9. Disrupting the Current Paradigm of How Audio is Viewed and Used
10. Schedule & Sponsors