It’s been a few weeks now since we announced the Meteor application and we’ve been feverishly procrastinating as hard as we possibly can to make sure that we lose any momentum that we gained when we first revealed what we were doing. So on the back of that wave of “Real Life” and “Actual Job” nonsense that we’ve had to put up with, it’s time to finally see Meteor in motion.
The Meteor Hub
This first video shows off the Meteor Hub. In this panorama, the user is presented with a few different sections:
The Now Playing section is the go-to section of the Hub. Here the user will be able to easily manipulate the currently playing media item; be it a song, an album, a podcast, a TV show or a movie. The user is able to easily change track and scrub to a specific position in the media item.
The Recent section is where the history of what the user has played on their media center is displayed. It currently shows the last 7 media “filters” that have played. Filters is a concept we’ll get into a little bit later, but is core to the way that Meteor works and how smart it can be with your media.
The final section here is the user’s media library. Here the user can easily jump to different areas of their media and browse to them in an integrated and intuitive way.
We really wanted to get away from your phone being a straight up “remote control”. Something that you point at your box and press updownleftright or key in numbers. We want this to be totally integrated into your media library and the first step is treating it like one would treat a personal music device like an iPod or a Zune. One of the pillars of our design is to make people believe that playing media from your media center is almost exactly the same as on your personal media device; why separate the experiences so much?
There are a couple of cool things about this section that I wanted to briefly talk about:
The first is the user experience. What we want to make sure is that it’s easy to get to the media that you want easily by separating it into logical sections (pivots) and then make it easy to drill down and refine your browsing.
For example, say you wanted to get to a particular song in a particular album, you could get there by clicking on the artist, then the album then the song, or you could go straight to the album and go from there, or if you just felt like listening to something in a specific genre, then you can find out all of the artists and albums in that. There are lots of ways to browse your own media and we want the user to discover them in an intuitive manner.
The second really, really, really, really damn cool thing I wanted to touch on (hopefully Chris doesn’t think I’m overstating this) is that we’ve implemented a form of data virtualisation for large lists of data in Silverlight. We’re WPF developers by day, so we get all of those nice things in WPF, and indeed have spent quite a bit of time trying to optimise the way we retrieve data from a backend, so we were a bit perplexed when we found that this sort of thing wasn’t exactly… easily done… in Silverlight. So where the albums are shown there is what we call our VirtualisingWrapPanel, so all of the data is loaded as the user scrolls down. It’s seriously a cool thing and hopefully a blog post about this tech comes along soon, because it’s something that we think would be extremely useful for lots of developers.
Questions and Answers
There have been quite a few questions asked about Meteor and I’ll probably compile them and put them in a separate post but there were some things that we wanted to just mention in a FAQ style format:
Do you support extenders?
This is something that people ask all the time, and as far as we know at this point in time: yes, we will support extenders but of course Meteor must still be connected to the actual Media Center PC. This may change, so don’t take this as gospel just yet.
Can I connect to my Media Center over the internet?
Technically yes, but it’s not something we’re supporting at this point.
Do I have to install anything?
Basically, we’ll have an installer that installs a Media Center addin as well as a small WCF service that allows Meteor to talk to your Media Center. It’s lightweight and leverages all of the cool stuff that Microsoft provides developers.
That’s about it for this post, we’ll have more information soon but before I sign off, I’ll just mention that these videos are from an early version of Meteor and the UI/uX etc will change over time, so things that are here now may not actually be there for the final version or they’ll have changed some. Disclaimers abound!