PlayStation Universe

Preview: Orb BR -- Your solution to media sharing/streaming

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on 20 June 2011

Orb BR is an internet streaming service available for any Blu-Ray capable device, allowing users to stream audio, video, and image files from their computers, as well as content from Hulu, HuluPlus, NetFlix, Amazon Video on Demand, YouTube, Comedy Central, Pandora, SIRIUS, and more.

Priced at $19.99 Orb allows interoperability between connected devices, such as allowing your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android phone, or Android tablet to be the controller for the player while you control from your couch.

The folks at Orb were kind enough to send us a copy to preview, and when it arrived, I took the time to do just that. After following the mandatory steps to set everything up, here's what stood out about my experience with Orb:

The Set Up:

First off, in order to get Orb BR to work, you need to set up the Orb Caster on your PC. A free downloadable program, that does just what the name implies; it pulls media from multiple sources (your computer's hard drive/the above-mentioned video/music streaming services) and sends the signal to your device. Be prepared to install multiple programs however, as the caster prompted me to download Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, etc...

Secondly, users have the choice of using their mobile smart devices to control the player via a downloadable application, which seems like a neat touch. The app is free on Apple's App Store, and the Android Market.

Lastly, all you need to do is place the disc into your device, such as a PlayStation 3, and you should be ready to go.

Orb Caster:

The Caster is the application responsible for beaming your media to your player. For media sharing purposes, you list where audio, video, and images can be found on your hard drive, and you can also set up different users, different Orb Devices, TV tuners, and even webcams.

Orb Controller:

Since users have the option of using their mobile devices as the controller for Orb BR, I took the opportunity to test it out on my Android device. After getting my the mobile phone to sync with the caster and player, I was indeed using the app to browse through my media libraries, and available streaming services.

I did however find that the “Orb Mini Controller” – a bite-sized application that comes with the caster – on my PC was more of an accessible (albeit functional) experience. But since the Orb Controller application is free on the market, its hard to complain since it is just another option available.

Orb BR Device:

For the sake of the preview, I used my PlaySation 3 to run Orb BR, but users can use any Blu-Ray player, as I mentioned above.

There's no real interface to use on the system, which makes sense since it's just receiving a signal, waiting for commands from your controller (mobile device, or PC). The television waits idly-by with the Orb logo on screen, ready for media to be beamed to the device.

Closing comments:

I'm pleased to state that Orb BR does work, but not without it's quirks. The Orb Controller device on my phone failed multiple times, with problems ranging from crashes to losing signal with the Caster. Speaking of the caster, having to keep it opened at all times while streaming is an obvious requirement, but it the amount of memory needed to keep it running really affects your PC's performance.

In terms of streaming, I couldn't get the Caster to register my Netflix account, so I was unable to test that out. Also, I couldn't get my library of videos from my hard drive to stream in HD. Every time I tried, I would see my TV revert to 480p before my media started playing.

On the bright side, music streaming worked pretty well, with a large display of the song's embedded album art on the left, and plenty of info on that current track to the right of the screen.

That's pretty much it for my experience with Orb, a product that may be unnecessary if you own a PlayStation 3, since there are other methods of media sharing available for free, as well as the system being a great way to watch Netflix already. But for those with just a regular Blu-Ray player, you might want to consider Orb – especially if you already have a subscription with Hulu, Netflix, or any other services supported by Orb.