The database that I have chosen to discuss is stored within the Tivo DVR. The Tivo DVR is a system that sits between a television and cable box. With the Tivo you can pause, fast-forward, rewind and record television shows. There is a huge amount of data about those shows that is stored on the local database and remotely on Tivo’s database. Data from Tivo’s remote databases can be downloaded through the Internet and viewed locally.

The main function of Tivo’s database is to allow users to quickly find what’s on television by browsing through menus that can be sorted by time of a show, channels, a show’s name, actors, genre or the setting of the show.

Guide

Since the Tivo does not include a keyboard, the engineers at Tivo needed to develop a way for users to enter search criteria from a typical remote control. The engineers at Tivo came up with the following system:

Search

Users use the up/down channel button to scroll through an alpha-numeric interface to spell words. The Tivo then displays all the matches that start with those letters the user entered. The interface also allows users to enter the name of an actor to find out all the upcoming shows or movies they will be in. The Tivo database can also find alternative show times for particulars episodes in case you might have a conflict in your schedule.

Adding a relational database to the television was a great idea, and the fact that it can be operated through a remote control while sitting on the couch is a great engineering feat. The user interface is very intuitive and easy to learn. Users do not feel like they are using a computer to watch television; rather it feels like it’s just a regular television with some great extra features.

The main shortcoming that I have seen is with the recommendations engine.

Recommendations

Tivo allows user to rate how much they like or dislike a particular program with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down button that is found on the remote control. The user’s preferences are then sent back to remote Tivo who then tries to find other shows that the user might like to watch. This system does not function very well. Recommendation engines are difficult to implement because everyone’s taste is so unique. I hope that Tivo continues to improve their offerings by adding the ability to search by genre or actor for video throughout the Internet that I can then download to my computer.

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