Two of the standout features of the upcoming TiVo HD are its Wishlist show searching system and its ability to recommend shows based on the user's viewing preferences. Both of these features have a huge amount of potential, if used correctly, to add to the television-watching experience.
The Wishlist is TiVo HD's interface for searching through the downloaded Electronic Program Guide. All shows within the EPG are tagged with valuable information: actors, directors, genres, categories and titles, as well as the all-important keywords.
Creating a Wishlist search is quite easy: the Find Programs section can be accessed from the main TiVo HD screen along with Live TV and your pre-existing recordings. Once you've opened the Create Wishlist Search page, you'll be prompted to select search criteria. Typing in keywords is handled through an on-screen keyboard that you navigate through with the remote control's arrow pad.
One nifty feature is the system's ability to bring up a list of all the actors and directors currently listed in the program guide in that week. The list is in alphabetical order, and if you type in the first few letters of an actor's name you can easily navigate through to his or her entry.
Categories are a good way to start if you're not looking for a specific show. You can easily browse through shows depending on what you're in the mood for, whether it's a soap opera, blockbuster movie or sports extravaganza. If you're in the mood for something particular, you can organise subcategories — great if you're a tennis or car-racing fanatic.
In addition, you can use the Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down buttons on the TiVo HD remote to prioritise or remove terms. Say you wanted to find every movie that featured Bruce Willis in the next week, as long as it wasn't The Fifth Element: the Thumbs Down button will allow you to exclude shows and categories from your search with ease. Similarly the Thumbs Up button allows for certain search terms to be given priority — dramas instead of comedies, for example.
The Suggestions engine uses metadata stored within the Electronic Program Guide: a series of ratings and rankings that connect shows to one another. Ratings may include genre links (ER and Third Watch may be linked because they're both dramas, for example), actor or director links (two movies starring Matt Damon, or a series of movies directed by the Coen Brothers), as well as less tangible connections. Rating shows can be done at almost any time — while setting a show to record, watching a recorded show, or simply watching live TV. When watching live TV, you can rate the series, allowing TiVo HD to then recommend similar shows to you or offer a Season Pass (which we'll explain in Part Two). It's not as simple as a single Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down: you can rate things up to three Thumbs Up or Down.
These recommendations come into play when you view the Suggestions menu, which compiles a list of all the shows that the service thinks you'd like. The US TiVo system automatically records these shows (but it obviously prioritises shows that you've explicitly requested).
There are a lot of possibilities, as long as you've got enough free time to take advantage of the features offered. Stay tuned for our next look at the TiVo HD service, where we explore some more of the features that the box has to offer.