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by Gloria Dulan-Wilson ~

  Regardless of what the cynics say, there is always something new under the sun, and that was definitely the case at the recently held Blogworld and New Media Expo at Jacob Javits Center.

Being a newly minted blogger – just entering my 3rd year in the realm of bloggerdom, but a veteran journalist, I was interested in finding out what was going on in the rest of the blog world. Needless to say, I was totally overwhelmed at how much there is to learn and do as a “blogger.” Which is a polite way of saying that I have barely scratched the surface of what started out for me to be a way to get around slow editors who have the tendency to either sit on, or dismiss what I consider essential information to the Black community.

Of course, each blogger thinks his or her blog is God's gift to the readership. We each hope we have found resonance in a niche that will continue to follow us for decades to come. Some blog for serious profit. Some blog for fun. I admit that the profit side of the equation has definitely eluded me. Though I'd like to realize some ducats from this endeavor – I also have to admit, that since writing is a labor of love for me, I'll probably do it whether or not anyone ever advertises with me. It's like my other passions – talking, reading, dancing, sewing – I do them because I truly love what I do, and I think I'm pretty good at it.

That said, there was so much happening at the BlogWorld Expo, I probably spent more time gawking than anything else. However, the SimulTV Booth totally blew my mind. I felt it was one of the most blog-worthy and newsworthy breakthroughs on the horizon, so I took the time to do an indepth interview with the principals. So listen up, you guys, because this may well take America and the world where Steve Jobs left off:

SimulTV is a social TV protocol that is prepped to launch a beta version soon. They presented at BlogWorld to provide a glimpse into the future. This revolutionary technology allows viewers to interface with their favorite video entertainment incorporating traditional TV with social interaction, With SimulTV friends and family can simultaneously share video streamed content while at the same time communicating through a picture-in picture video chat format. It's as though the individuals are in the same room, watching the same show, and at the same time through the PiP format, can see each other, talk to each other, share comments, concerns, etc, far exceeding the current method of online chatting. Wow!

In speaking with one of the key investors about why he chose to back Steve Turner, the inventor and genius behind this concept, he stated that the first time he heard about it, he was as incredulous as I was. However, after having an opportunity to test it out for himself, he decided to become involved in providing the funds necessary to get the project off the ground. It's just a little over a year old, and was just launched last week, June 5th at the BlogWorld and New Media Expo.

Wesley Linzy, a tall, affable African American brother, who is COO of Virginia-based Interconnect Media Network Systems (IMN), stated that he had come across the company as an outside sales rep. “IMN specializes in video ingestion and encoding, as well as HD and SD transcoding and delivery using adaptive bitrate streaming. IMN has both hardware and cloud based services as well as a full line of products that will seamlessly integrate with your current broadcast workflow.” (This is technical stuff, you guys; I don't pretend to understand it at all, but I totally realize that it is a cut above what we currently have).

Mr. Linzy,
who is completing a Masters in Business and Entrepreneurship, continued: “I have a sales background. I deal mainly with computer hardware and software. One day I was just calling people, and I noticed this interesting system there. And I asked what is it that you do? And he said we simultaneously videochat while watching live TV at the same time. I said  that's interesting, how many people do you have working on this? He said, 'not a whole lot. We need some more help, if you want to do that.'  At that time I was working on my graduate degree, so I asked if we could use it for a business plan. He said 'sure, go for it!' I've been involved since about 2009, 2010. And here we are today.”

In launching the Beta Test, according to Linzy, the first 30-day roll out will be free, and will probably be up and running within the next week. They are expecting a large sign up. Once they tweak the system, they are looking to roll out full steam ahead in late August or early September of 2012. They already have 40 channels, of which 10 are exclusive to SimulTV. The ones they can currently verify are Home Shopping Network (HSN); LCN out of Louisiana – they're pretty much landlocked, and want to go global; One World Sports.

Linzy also indicated an interest in working with other affiliates: “We're looking for people who produce content. Just spoke with some African American artists who do a comedy skit, and are looking to bring them on. Have another African American based company that is looking to do their own channel about helping fallen superstar athletes recover from problems and retake their lives. They are looking to use us to help connect with their fans via video chatting – there might be someone out there that can help.”

Those individuals who are interested in providing QUALITY content, can definitely contact Wesley Linzy with proposals, concepts, ideas, services – he will be more than happy to talk with you. Their next move of course, once they've completed the Beta Test and have calibrated their results, will be to "go global with it," working with a broad variety of people across the spectrum.

Linzy continued, “We will wind up needing really good help. But for me, personally, if you have some great talent out there, and you're African American, I will be more than willing to help you out. Or, if they are just interested in talking with someone in this position (Chief Operating Officer)- I didn't have that mentor myself - they can always contact me. We're looking to reach out to the community as much as possible and give help.”

Linzy also stated his own personal goal and vision is to be able to turn 70% to 80% of the profits back to at-risk communities,  with the proviso that they pay it forward in some significant way: "They will work within the program. I will help them fix their houses, help pay bills, feed them and stuff like that. But they are going to have to go through our financial seminars and other training and education programs in order to qualify. If they don't do that, they can't participate. If they go through the program, they have to pay it forward by helping others, and keep it going," he concluded.

While IMN is looking for investors, they are clear that they want people who see their vision and really want to work with them in fulfilling it; not those who would try to cannibalize the program, and turn it into just another mindless mishmosh of mindless, mediocre, over stimulating misinformation.

It is clear that the thrust of SimulTV is family oriented, which is why content and control are of primary concern to both Linzy and Turner. Per Linzy, “We truly want to help people, and not just make a quick buck.” This principle of doing well by doing good is a rare quality, and one that should be nurtured, respected and promulgated. Particularly in light of the recent debacle that has turned the US and the rest of the world on its ear – greed, avarice, insensitivity, and depraved disrespect for human beings – perhaps this is the progenitor of what TV can really be about, given the right programming, and higher minded principles.

Getting an interview with SimulTV's inventor and CEO, Steven Turner - a soft spoken, well thought out (read – intense) guy, was sort of like wading through a throng of fans at a rock concert – but well worth the wait.

When he was finally available for interview, I asked, “What is this and how you started it?” He responded enthusiastically: “Well, basically, what this is is SimulTV – being able to take live cable television on demand, over the internet, and around the world, over any device, over any platform, so you can also integrate your social media – like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn – and reach out to everybody that's connected to you socially through all these social villages, simultaneously around the world. But on top of that we also incorporate a picture-in-picture conferencing system, where you can invite someone to do a video conference with you, while you're watching a live, or on-demand product; and you can have a virtual living room, no matter where they are in the world. So you can connect with your family and friends, where ever they might be, with our busy schedules; and see them, and talk to them, and share a movie and have the family unite. Just like you used to when you were a child. Now, with today's busy lifestyle, it's not as easy!” {Mind you, Steven Turner said all this in one breath - with the intensity and enthusiasm of a man on fire, who knows he is about to provide something wonderful to the world – and indeed, he is!}

Truly, in this day and age of modern technological breakthroughs, there are no lack of geniuses. However, it's rare to have the opportunity of speaking with the possible next Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, face to face, right at the beginning of their climb, before the world beats that proverbial path to his door. I must admit, I do feel that there are times when I am in a privileged space.

“What inspired you to do this? What was the genesis behind this?” was my next query, to which he responded: “Well, I'm an inventor. I like to tinker around with things. I don't claim to be a genius by no means; I'm just – I'm creative. In a past life, like right out of high school, I was under the Disney Internship, and I was an artist. I had a scholarship to Columbus College of Art and Design. The scholarship ran out, so did I. So I never got to finish. I went free lance for a while, and then I got into technology. I just still look at things as an artist. I create. I don't look at it like an engineer – where they think more inside the box. I don't see a box. You know, like, “It does this, why can't I do this with it. And I figure out how to do it.”

Turner went on to say that Walt Disney was one of his idols, as well as Nikola Tesla, the great inventor. And I admit, unabashedly, that I am a total Disney admirer as well (however, paralleling Tesla, were two other heroes of mine, who were his contemporaries – Granville T. Woods, and Lewis Latimer – both of whom were African Americans of major influence in bringing about the birth of the modern age of electricity and communication. In fact, without Latimer's famous tungsten filament, the light bulb would have never worked – but that's another story).

Walt Disney alone stands out as one who transformed nothing into something just through the sheer dint of his imagination – I mean, how many people do you know could not only make a line (drawing) walk, but talk? And create an entire empire and industry around it that employs millions, and is loved by millions worldwide? Talk about the transformative power of imagination – or imagineering, as the Disney people call it. Steven Turner is now embarking on a similar path.

In reference to the “beta test”, Turner stated, “we are going to let people log on, sign up for it; and we'll send out invites in the next few days and weeks. We're going to allow them to play around with a few channels, just a handful, right now; a few features, because we're developing user experience, and want feedback. Say what you like and what you don't like about it, and we'll roll out new builds every week or two. And, as we figure out how everybody likes to see the system, I want the consumers to design this. That way, it's what they want. The idea behind this is to give the consumer the power they've always needed and deserved; and they should have. So this way, we'll roll this out add features to it over the few weeks, add more channels, and around August we'll launch the final version, with all forty channels – maybe more. I've got 5,000 VOD right now, for about $9.99 a month – the introductory price. We're going to be launching it, and you can subscribe to it, take it worldwide, and invite everybody.”

The way it comes through on a TV is via a “Smart TV with a web browser connected to it. You would go to the web site, sign up, create an account. If you don't you can connect a device to it, like a game console, or a smart phone, tablet or PC; whatever can connect to the internet and stream video, can use our system. With our picture-in-picture technology, they're data independent, which also allows you to browse, while watching TV, if you are not video conferencing. You can reshape the channels, re-size them, do a word document; search the internet, vote for your favorite reality show. Whatever you want to do, you can do with the picture-in-picture, and you can do more than one! You can have web video on one; you can have, word documents in another; you can have channels; you can video conferences – as many as you want, only relying on your band width.”

All this is possible with SimulTV. WOW!

In reference to their programming objectives, according to Turner – whose wife and adorable three year old daughter were helping out by sharing bags of freshly popped pop corn with passersby - “It's a family-friendly service. We want to make sure that it's something that anybody can watch. I have a daughter, and I want her to be able to watch it. The vision behind my company, and everything I've created is to change the world for the better. That's what we are doing with this. And a lot of people ask me, how do you do that with TV?   Well, TV is your common ground. Everybody either likes or hates something on TV. You like to talk about what you like and what you don't like. With our system, you can share the experience with people.”

Using Star Trek as an example, Turner stated one could log on and watch an episode “...connect with people you don't know, see them, make the visual connection, and once you make the visual connection, you cross those borders of ethnicities, of religions, and then you don't hate people for no reason. And when you don't hate, you change the world for the better.” I truly hope he's right.

In the interim, there are several take-aways from this piece that I hope you are grasping: The tremendous opportunity to be on the ground floor of something great. The guiding principle of wanting to make a difference and change the world for the better. The possibility of doing well while doing good. The paradigm shift in content management from the crass, vast wasteland that TV has become, into something that is not only “edutainment” but community building, and barrier dissolving at the same time.

If you are interested in being part of the beta test of SimulTV, log on to www.simultv.com. They will in turn reach out and invite you to be a part of the progress. If you have program content you want to recommend, likewise email Mr. Wesley Linzy at wlinzy@imnsys.com.

Frankly, I am looking forward to the launch. With my Mom and brothers in Oklahoma City, my sister in Chicago, my kids in Philly and Virginia, and my Honey in California, this will be a wonderful opportunity to really have some great family nights!

Stay Blessed &
Gloria Dulan-Wilson

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