Myka Digital TV Appliance

When Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple TV in September 2006, tech analysts widely predicted that Apple was chambering up the magic bullet to finally bring Internet-based television to the masses with a slick design, easy-to-use interface, and Apple’s well-known knack for marketing. A year and a half later, the magic bullet has turned out to be more of a dud. Apple TV has sunk relatively low on the tech press’ radar, and reports of lackluster sales generally confirm that the system fell well short of expectations.

What went wrong? By most accounts, the system’s heavy DRM restrictions and lack of support for commonly used video formats like DivX doomed it from the start. Rather than serving as a portal to the booming universe of free online content, it served primarily as a storefront for iTunes. In the end, hackers were willing to jump through hoops to enable the features they wanted, but the public as a whole turned up its nose at the box, demonstrating the importance of an open platform.

The upcoming Myka digital video appliance borrows the Apple TV’s smooth lines and tiny footprint, but promises to open up a whole new treasure trove of content by trimming back restrictions and adding capabilities. Besides a wide spectrum of compatible video formats, from DivX to WMV, the Myka offers built-in access to the granddaddy of all sources for video downloads: BitTorrent.

For those unfamiliar with BitTorrent, it’s a decentralized method of peer-to-peer file sharing that allows users to download a single file from many sources at once, drastically increasing speeds and cutting the load on any one server. While its name now rings synonymous with piracy thanks to wide adoption by music and movie pirates, there are also plenty of legal torrent files, from freely released concert footage and audio to movies that have fallen out of copyright and into the public domain.

Using an active Internet connection (either wired or wireless), Myka taps into BitTorrent completely free of an external PC, storing downloaded files on its own internal drive and making them accessible through an on-screen interface, which is navigated using a remote control. Under the hood, it’s essentially a computer running a lightweight version of Linux, giving it much of the flexibility of a full-blown HTPC. It handles just about every popular movie format, including MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264/AVC, VC1, DivX, and WMV 9.

Myka
Image Courtesy of Myka

For those who wonder, for the money, why they shouldn’t simply spring for an HTPC for BitTorrent, the Myka has another trick up its sleeve: high-definition output. While most commercial HTPCs include S-Video and VGA outputs for standard-def television, the Myka also has HDMI and composite outputs for 1080i content, so downloaded high-def video stays high-def.

As far as storing all those potentially enormous files, the Myka dwarves the original 40GB Apple TV with three hard drive options: 80GB, 160GB and 500GB. It also includes dual USB ports that make adding an external hard drive a possibility, boosting its potential capacity even further.

Although the Myka doesn’t require an external PC to operate, its network connection allows users to pull content from the Myka to their computers, and vice versa. This makes it possible to push your existing media collection over to the Myka without redownloading it, or to legally rip a DVD to your computer, and store it on the Myka for easy access.

Though the Myka hasn’t yet officially launched, buyers can preorder the units directly through the company Web site to receive them when they start shipping this summer. The 80GB unit sells for $299, the 160Gb for $349, and the 500GB for $459. That puts the 160GB model just a hair above the comparable 160GB Apple TV, which sells for $329, and well below most HTPCs. For those who crave digital content without getting locked into a given set of movie formats, the Myka may just be the long overdue magic bullet. More information can be found on the Myka Web site.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in several genres for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Gaming

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?
Home Theater

The best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.
Business

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.