At South by Southwest in Austin, ‘Connected future’ envisioned for electronic devices

Cameron Coursey, associate vice president of product development with AT&T’s emerging devices division, speaks Tuesday at the Mobility Everywhere: Beyond the Smartphone panel discussion in Austin.Here’s the full report from my southern sojourn, and it’s clear that the future is all about wireless devices everywhere.

And robots.

But after the panel discussion, I also had a chance to go tour some additions to AT&T’s research lab in Austin. I first wrote about the lab last year, but I was excited this week to go see new Home Reference Lab and the latest efforts by the U-verse TV team to optimize 3-D video signals.

The home reference lab is basically the world’s most awesome man cave.

The researchers had to build the room from scratch, transforming a one-time conference room into the most fun laboratory outside the Krispy Kreme test kitchen.

The goal is to study what sorts of issues might pop up in an AT&T’s subscriber’s home as they add new devices and services to their network.

Since the AT&T lab building is a massive generator of wireless interference, the researchers had sheets of metal foil built into the walls to block outside signals, and then installed just about every imaginable piece of home theater gear. There are nine HD televisions, eight U-verse set top boxes, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360 and OnLive game consoles, a Blu-ray player, surround sound, Apple TV and more.

Also, the chairs are very comfy.

Sophisticated diagnostic equipment measures network performance, and the team can track which apps and devices are putting the heaviest loads on the network. Streaming video obviously is a big burden, but performance by device and source varies.

That info is helpful when a customer calls to complain about a slowdown in their browsing speed. a tech can examine the draw on the customer’s bandwidth and suggest perhaps having Jr. dial back the BitTorrent downloads if dad needs to access a video presentation for work.

Once I’d wiped up my drool, I went to speak with Pierre Costa, who heads up the video encoder lab.

At South by Southwest in Austin, ‘Connected future’ envisioned for electronic devices


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