Imagine taking a compact disk from your bookshelf, sliding it into the CD player under your television set, and getting immediate one-to-one help from the best minds in the world.
Does a kitchen faucet need fixing? Insert the CD on home repair. On-screen comes a picture of a house. With your remote control wand, point to the kitchen. The screen zooms in on a typical kitchen. You stop the action and point when you see a faucet. A voice describes several kinds of faucets while, onscreen, you see each type.There's the faucet you own! Point to the problem area. What's wrong? you're asked. Then you're not just told how to fix it, you see a video of a professional plumber making the repair. You can slow it or rewind and replay it. At any point, you can get diagrams, drawings and different views. In no time, the faucet's fixed.
Want to learn a foreign language fast from a native? Slide in the Japanese course CD. Each lesson is interactive, involving you in what's going on onscreen. You can have conversations with filmed teachers. You can try mix-and-match photo and text quizzes. You can play hear-and-say word games and direct skits that you star in.
Do you need a change of scene after a long day? Select the CD that takes you into Yellowstone National Park. Relaxed in your easy chair, you can hike through boiling fumeroles or pack a horse into the back country. A fine actor reads poems about what you see. You can move back in time to see what John Muir saw, or forward to how it may look to your grandchildren.
It may sound like science fiction, but if Philips and Sony have their way, next year you will be able to do all three. Sony and Philips have a box that can do everything in the home from helping the kids with their schoolwork to playing music, movies and video games. Interactive compact disk (CD-I) machines are already in production. Several companies in Los Angeles are writing the educational disks and entertainments for this new medium.
CD-I machines combine CD audio players with computers. They have hookups for your TV and stereo player. They'll be able to show words, numbers, drawings, photos-and movies that look like a VHS tape player's output onscreen.
What's unique about them is that you can control any or all of the movie just like you can control the sounds, words, numbers and drawings on the CD-I disk. You'll get to choose what you hear and see at any one time! Don't confuse CD-I players with CD-ROM players, which we described in a recent column. To play sounds and see words, pictures and movies stored on CD-ROM optical disks, you have to hook a CD-ROM player to a full-scale computer.
CD-I players are the size of CD audio players. When you put a CD-I laser disk into the drawer, the hidden computer reads a program on the disk. The program makes things so easy you never know it's there. Almost by magic, this multimedia machine starts the action. Then you take over.
You can answer onscreen questions by touching the screen or moving a pointer. Your answers can control what happens next. Want to know more about something on-screen? Point to it to send the computer your message. Your wish is the computer's command.
It's so . . . well . . . interactive. The computer press is calling it hyper-media!