Chumby’s New NeTV Makes Almost ‘any TV’ Into An Internet Connected Device

Check out the new set-top box on the block, the NeTV from Chumby Industries. That link will take you to their video demonstration of the device, which is a humble-looking black box with no apparent user interface. You’ll see a few cool tricks that may impress you, like pairing the device with an Android phone through the use of a QR code. Once the two have mated you can do things like share images on the TV and load webpages from addresses entered into the smart phone. There are options for scrolling alerts when you receive an IM or SMS, and a few other bells and whistles. All of this from a device which connects with two HDMI ports to sit between your TV and whatever feeds it a video signal. Read all about the features here.

But its the hacking potential that really gets our juices flowing. The developer page gives us a look inside at the Spartan-6 FPGA that lives in the little case. We don’t often quote [Dave Jones] but we’re certain he’d call this thing ‘sex on a stick’. They’ve made the schematic and FPGA information available and are just begging for you to do your worst. The power for the device is provided by a USB connection but curiously is just above spec when drawing a max of 700 mA. We have a USB port on the back of our TV and would love to velcro this thing in place and power it from that. What would you plan to do with it?

[via Reddit]

40 thoughts on “Chumby’s New NeTV Makes Almost ‘any TV’ Into An Internet Connected Device

  1. That thing is awesome, if you want to annoy some people by suddenly displaying random stuff on the screen. Of course you just need to wire that thing up without them knowing :D

    PS: i can haz shoplink/price?

  2. How about an automatic pineapple finder for “Psyche” that makes any pineapple matches blink! :D Or simple reminders like “Your steak is burning on the BBQ.” Or replace commercials with YouTube vids. OMG, I could go on for days on how this could rock!!!

  3. And it will not work. HDMI in and Out = HDCP is broken so your DVD player will not work, your Windows Media center will not work, and the new Comcast box plus New DISH box will not work (both require HDCP to be active for HDMI out at HD resolutions.)

    Cool Idea, but the Evil that is the USA Congress and the MPAA crippled almost all devices like this. Write your congressman and tell him how he is pure evil for supporting the DMCA and the other laws that force HDCP down our throats.

    1. HDCP is broken. The community for this will probably get it working with what you mention.

      Aside from that it would be great to see this incorporated with many HDMI ports. So you can access the features while using any HDMI device, but also control which is displayed using your phone as a remote.

    2. The video clearly shows the NeTV running on top of the display coming from the PS3 to the left, playing both games and Bluray.

      So they have somehow figured out how to keep HDCP working, which is doubly impressive with the PS3 since it has enough HDCP problems just connecting to a standard TV.

  4. Regarding USB current draw: We are currently in v3.0, that means we can draw 900ma as opposed to v2.0’s 500ma if the TV/Monitor in question has a v3.0 port then the 700ma draw is well within spec, else you could just a powered hub to supply the juice for the NeTV.

  5. While the usb port is listed as being intended only for powering the device, it has been hinted at on the forums that it is a usable interface but that there is some FCC shenanigans that make it easier to just list it as a power port.

    1. More than just “some hinting” – the NeTV developer info page ( ) outright states that it’s USB ethernet.

      “When booted, the NeTV configures the Micro-USB port to act as an Ethernet gadget. It will configure itself with the IP address, and runs a DHCP server that will offer your desktop computer the address You’ll need to install a driver in order to get it working. “

  6. Having the ability to overlay stuff onto the existing display could allow you to have it say hooked into a camera at your front door so if someone rings the bell you get an instant picture-in-picture video feed of whoever’s at the front door.

    That kind of ability could have an almost endless amount of uses.

    1. Because the HDMI handler is a FPGA, you can reflash it to do stripping instead of, or in addition to, the overlay feature. Clearly though some industry lawyers would be upset if a commercial vendor was shipping a gadget like this that stripped HDCP.

  7. the main problem i can see with this is that it’s only global if you just use 1 hdmi input on your tv. if you have your cable, console and bluray player all going in via different hdmi ports your NeTV will only work with the one it sits in between.

    but anyway. a good hack would be to interface an IR blaster into the unit, and use your android phone to control the NeTV and all your devices.

    1. It’s in violation of the USB 2.0 spec as originally released; you can only draw up to 500mA, and that’s only after you request it (you start out at 100mA and can request in unit loads of 100mA).

      USB 3.0 ups the unit load size to 150mA with a max of 900mA.

      There is an addendum to the USB 2.0 spec, the ‘Battery Charging Specification’, which defines some additional modes to allow devices to draw 900mA (high-speed), 1.5A (low- or full-speed), or 1.8A (dedicated charging, no communication). Not all hosts support this. Recent Macs do (for charging the iPad), but I don’t know what the take is on the PC side.

  8. I don’t see using it to display a banner ticker showing email, tweets, IM … they are all personal and can get them on the phone. Don’t need to annoy the rest of the household.

    But things a household might be interested in:
    Local Weather reports or warnings.
    Timer that pops up remaining time with more frequency as it gets closer. To check on oven. For when the kids need to turn off the Game system.

  9. I do not think that this device will easily become an HDCP stripper. To do that the DDC_SDA and DDC_SCL lines would need to be isolated between the two HDMI connectors and both go into the FPGA. As it stands the DDC_SDX lines are directly connected between the two HDMI ports. The FPGA can snoop and write to DDC_SDX which should allow decoding and insertion of new video content, but the handshaking between any device will be seen by all three devices, your TV and Bluray/PS3 do not expect to see a third party talking in the middle and will probably not react well to it. I would guess that Bunnie/Chumby Inc. did this to prevent getting sued for DCMA violations of intentionally selling hardware to bypass HDCP.

    1. Ah, you did more research than I. That’s unfortunate but lawyers do what lawyers do. Now I’m wondering what the cheapest FPGA kit is that has sufficient HDMI connections to act as a stripper. I have a Digilent Atlys with 4 HDMI connectors that could certainly do it, but $350 is a little steep for that purpose alone.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.