With all the recent talk (and hype) about podcasting, I thought I’d chip in with my two cents.
For me, the killer podcasting application would definitely reside within the automotive environment. This is really the only time that I have to consume such audio content, and, like Russ Beattie mentioned in a recent post, I think it would make a significant difference to my daily commute.
Now, here’s my problem: I want listening to podcasts to be a seamless experience. Just like I can turn on my car radio today and listen to an AM or FM station, or play a CD, I want to be able to turn on my radio and hit a button and select the podcast I want to listen to. Or, have a predefined daily playlist of podcasts for my to-work and from-work commutes.
Essentially, I want an aggregator in my car radio.
I’ve thought about this for a while, and here’s my imaginary specification sheet for this ‘podcast-enabled’ car entertainment system:
Built-in storage – multi Gigabyte hard drive
A hard-drive within the system would be used to store podcast content, as well as other media.
Wi-fi enabled (preferably 802.11g)
When your car is parked at home, or at an available hotspot, the system will be able to commence downloading of new content (or partially downloaded existing content) without requiring any user interaction.
Aside from the usual in-car User Interfaces, the system will feature an embedded web server. When you car is parked at home, you’ll be able to connect to this interface from any browser in your house, and use it to managed playlists, perform an OPML import of podcast feeds, and manage other configuration.
An iTunes-like application could also be provided to support the synchronization of non-aggregated audio and visual contents, such as your personal MP3 library.
Supports both audio and video content
In addition to audio content, video content (MPEG2, MPEG4, Quicktime etc.) could be supported as well. This would especially be for the benefit of those in the back of the car, who could watch new content on the in-car video system. For example, new cartoons could be downloaded daily to entertain children in the back of the car.
Intelligent audio processing
In addition to standard playback of podcasts, I would like to be able to configure some intelligent pre-processing. This woud include the ability to time-stretch, speeding up (or slowing down) the podcast without making the presenter sound like a chipmunk, as well as some graceful empty-space management, removing those pregnant pauses. Every podcaster has a different presentation style; I would like to have more control over how I listen to them.
Existing capabilities of a car radio (FM/AM receiver, CD/DVD player)
Along with the rest of the capabilities, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t still let me listen to standard terrestrial radio.
So, when can we expect something like this to be brought to market? Soon, I hope. With the advent of technologies like Via’s Mini-ITX and Nano-ITX, a complete PC on a card 12cm by 12cm, it is quite easy to envision a home-grown project to create this next-generation in-car entertainment system.
Technologies like this will pose an alternative, and a challenge, to the satellite radio industry. At some point in the future I could easily envision a wide range of content providers offering free, paid, and sponsored content services. Right now I could sync podcasts not only from a wide range of individuals, but from some of the world’s largest broadcasters. And, for me, this is more than enough for my daily commute!