My IBC report from the show floor is in several parts and in the coming weeks Iâ€™ll be talking about Verimatrix, Broadpeak, Capablue, ADB, Samsung and NDS, among others. In this first part I am looking at KIT Digital, Zappware, never.no and the Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera.
KIT Digitalâ€™s multiscreen demo was as impressive as expected from the company with the most OTT multiscreen large-scale deployments in the field. One of their little extras was the use of QR codes to synchronise the second screen, presumably in a much lighter way than with the heavy lifting gear often required to achieve this. Their â€œsocial program guideâ€ is based on a traditional EPG layout, but with a non-obtrusive view of what my friends are watching KIT told us â€œthis is a white labelled Zeebox but with more featuresâ€. We saw a time line on bottom of screen live TV EPG blending in my friendsâ€™ tweets (other social media can be integrated too).
KITâ€™s demos are among the best or at least the most credible, but much of the talk was about their corporate woes with a shareholder revolt this summer. At the end of the day, our industry is moving so fast, it could be construed as reassuring to actually get a glimpse of things that go wrong in a company. You can then ensure that they are being fixed, which seems to be the case here. As NSNâ€™s IPTV customers bitterly found out, there is no such thing as a safe supplier nowadays however large, secure and committed the backers are.
I went by Zappwareâ€™s booth a few times, but missed out on the free Belgian beer this year â€“ I need better calendar management. Anyway, the company was founded in 2001, originally working on STB development from Philips, to address the application layer.
Zappware first hired marketers from TV space to find the disruptive ideas of 2001. They came up with services like EPG and PVR.
The first big deployment they won was the Belgian CableCo Telenet, where they used the return path to develop interactive services from the outset.
They key design focus of Zappware has always been on reducing the number of clicks. Among more recent projects, this year they designed Numericableâ€™s new UI and integrated Unity Mediaâ€™s latest solution.
They have recently created their very own ZappDesign agency, which is the key component to maintain the promise to Zappware clients that they can focus on keeping their subscribers happy over time.
In the VoD demo we saw, the video catalogue actually looks like DVD cases on a shelf, which was pretty cool. This enhanced the sense of immersion and I would guess makes people lean just a fraction more forward.
The demo was stunning on a Mac with really cool 3Dish effects as you slide along the rows or switch between rows. The 25-fold performance drop between PC/Mac and STB, despite its powerful Intel Atom 4200 chipset, really showed. So transitions went from stunning to just good, and you needed a bit more imagination to imagine that the images were DVD cases. On the connected TV we went lower still and were back to a carefully designed run-of-mill UI. But it was quite impressive to experience such a commonality in the 3 different grades of UI. It reinforced my subjective perception that a slick UI is only important when you fix the rest first i.e. have a great user experience, clearly one of Zappwareâ€™s strong points. In the end, for UI design as elsewhere, nice-to-haves only become differentiators once you get all the must-haves right.
Wondering around the innovations in hall 13, I came across the TPBC and if you havenâ€™t peeked ahead thereâ€™s no way youâ€™ll guess that acronym. Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera is a 36 * 2 Megapixel camera in a bouncy rubber ball. The prototype on display requires transfer to PC for processing to build a full 360Â° image. A dedicated app then lets you navigate within the image so can explore the whole panorama but also the sky and the ground, including yourself throwing the camera. Iâ€™m not quite sure of the relevance for IBC but it was really cool and although it was first reported almost a year ago I hadnâ€™t seen one yet.
Jonas Pfeil spun out of Berlin Technical University and is looking for funding.
You can see a demo here: http://jonaspfeil.de/ballcamera
Never.no is one of those companies that has been on the edge of my radar screen for ages, but that I never really got to know. So I went over to their booth where I met Janice Gundersen who heads up biz dev for the company. The VC funded company founded in 2000 is now 22 people strong. Having been through a complete IT boom cycle has given the company a strong focus on services that can actually be deployed now as opposed to the more futuristic services many younger start-ups are pushing. Never.no originally got into audience engagement with SMS campaigns.
Now, as expected, they are into companion apps for 2nd screen interactivity and social TV. The company believes in the social engagement of viewers and most of their project work is with broadcasters. This is another sign of the companyâ€™s experience doing real business, not just burning investors cash. Indeed many social TV companies out there arenâ€™t addressing the critical mass issue. You need to be friends with the providers that already have large customers bases for TV to get social. They partner among others with another Norwegian company Vizrt, whose booth dwarfed their own at IBC.
To make TV social, Never.no first harvest what they call â€œfragmented mediaâ€ from email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, CRM systems and images with their tool called ADS (Auto Dialog System). Interactivity around real-time TV streams can then be managed by the TV operator from within a dedicated UI.
Scheduled publishing of social media can also be done with a Dynamic Content Scheduler. Janice gave me a demo showcasing how an Operator can manually moderate a tweet to have it appear online. This manual approach felt much more realistic than some of the automated things on show elsewhere at IBC. A â€œTrendingâ€ tool helps the TV station identify top words talked about so as to better understands trends and choose the most appropriate tweets.
Prompter V2 is the dedicated Never.no tool used to initiate social engagement from a host or journalist straight to the viewers.
Sticking to the real world never.no is looking to enrich the TV experience for all viewers from community-based interactions, but not (yet) to deliver any personalized feedback.
Janice also showed me a voting demo; which can be launched simultaneously on all of Twitter, SMS, Facebook and a 2nd screen app. I asked her how the never.no technology under the hood managed to identify specific topics when a hash tag can have multiple meanings she gave me the example of the #Florida tag explaining that itâ€™s usually an issue of filtering irrelevant terms from the â€œWhatâ€™s Trendingâ€ list.
â€We encourage our broadcasters to inform the audience what term should be included if the audience wants a tweet to be considered for on-air. Ideally this term is unique, but often this is not possible or there are unforeseen overlaps.
For example, we recently provided a service for ESPN for a college football game at the University of Florida filtering for #FLORIDA to harvest words like QUARTERBACK, GATORS (the mascot) and TOUCHDOWN. Coincidentally the Republican National convention was also wrapping up and there were many politically oriented tweets that also included #FLORIDA. So the initial word cloud also included political terms: like OBAMA ROMNEY GOP REPUBLICANâ€¦
We were able to quickly eliminate the political terms using the HIDE WORD feature and manually eliminate the political chatter so only the football terms remained. Additionally, the story producers were able to find editorially interesting tweets and tweeters using a geolocation filter for tweets within 5 miles of the stadium alongside our VIP feature, which is a list of known football commentators, Florida alumni and celebrities.â€