I was reading through Ed Bott's comparison of TiVo, Windows Media Center and a cable PVR (via Thomas Hawk) when one of the feature descriptions caught my eye:
Built-in reaction time. When you're fast-forwarding through a show (or, more often, through commercial blocks), you're watching the video flickering by. And then you see the part you want to watch — and hit Play. Now, on a less intelligent machine, you'd be too late. You'd have missed the first 20 seconds of what you wanted, because the fast-forwarding had already blown past it.
But not on a TiVo. It compensates for your reaction time. When you hit Play, it doesn't begin playing from that point; it begins playing a few seconds before that, with uncanny "it knew what I wanted" accuracy.
MCE has this option as well. It's called Reaction Time Compensation, and it’s customizable using the TweakMCE PowerToy. SARA doesn’t do this, and the absence of this feature makes the experience of watching a recorded program annoying.
Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of this feature. I think that it should be on every PVR and DVD player. However, TiVo recently announced that they had recently received several patents including one that appears to describe this feature. From TiVo's press release:
The USPTO recently issued patent number 6,850,691 entitled Automatic Playback Overshoot Correction System to TiVo. Among other things, the patent describes a system that compensates for a user's reaction time when the user stops fast-forwarding or rewinding through program material.
I'm not a lawyer, and I'm really not a software patent lawyer, but it sounds like MCE's Reaction Time Compensation is doing what's covered in this patent. You can read the full text of patent 6,850,691 online.