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Ground control to major hits                          
                       (Evening Standard London; 04/19/99)                      

   THIS is what civilisation is all about. To some it may seem decadent that  
the finest multimedia technology and data transmission capability has been  
harnessed to pass the minutes between one pint and packet of crisps and the  
next. But not to Allied Domecq, owner of the Mr Q chain of pubs. In the centre  
of a Mr Q pub, among the pool tables, games machines and discarded pieces of  
lime favoured by the 18 to 35s, at a mystery location somewhere in north  
London, sits a magnificent Wurlitzer-style jukebox. There are one or two  
obvious differences. Out of its head sticks a video screen, and around the pub  
are 29 different screens broadcasting simultaneously. But it is inside this  
karaoke Dalek that the differences are most impressive.

   For the innards of this retro beast are anything but 1950s: the machine has  
a vast computer hard-drive which stores 200 pop videos. There are no CDs:  
everything on the machine is beamed down by satellite in compressed MPEG files.

   "In the past, you'd get a bloke coming round every month to change the play  
lists," explains Mark Lever of Tele-Cine, the company that has been testing out 
 the Digital Video Jukebox since January. "This automatically downloads a new  
list every week. And each venue can have its own unique automatic selection."

   But most impressive of all, the machine detects which videos the punters  
have requested the most and makes its choice accordingly.

   Anything that doesn't garner sufficient hits is dropped automatically and  
replaced with the weekly update. At the moment, the trials are being kept low- 
profile because Allied wants to roll it out to 300 pubs from June, but for Tele-
 Cine, this is the next stage in its bid for world interactive kiosk 

   The last attempt was a bizarre-looking video booth with a domed enclosure  
that was tried out at HMV earlier this year.

   Though it wasn't taken up, it proved that you could make **touchscreen** 
video  work instantly, instead of having people hang around while it sputtered 
into  action. "If you've got a few seconds' delay, it's no good, the person 
will just  lose interest and move on," says Lever.

   Tele-Cine had to write its own dedicated software to get instant playback at 
 digital quality, and still has high hopes for in-store video stands, but is  
more excited by the prospects for its karaoke Dalek.

   In the future, says Lever, "you could use any content you want, updated as  
often as you like - from a 10-second ad between videos to a bit of branding, to 
 training programmes for staff.

   It's halfway to interactive TV." Think of it: George Michael followed by an  
ad for St Michael jockeys one minute, moustache wax the next, all beamed down  
from the stratosphere. I know I'd need another pint.

   MARK HUGHES-MORGAN The karaoke Dalek, aka Digital Video Jukebox

Thanks Kinetic!

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