Last year, Viaccess-Orca demonstrated a VR-based EPG at IBC. At the time it said it believed that VR technology had the potential to revolutionise television, especially for premium content such as sports.
This year, again in partnership with Harmonic, the company took a further step towards realizing that vision, with a demo leveraging its Virtual Arena VR video eco-system, which is designed to accelerate VR deployment on consumer-grade head-mounted displays connected to a smartphone.
This used UHD content from Harmonic, accessible through a Samsung Gear VR headset using Viaccess-Orca’s secure Connected Sentinel Player. In the example shown to Videonet, the VR experience consisted of a 360-degree video taken from inside the NASA ‘swimming-pool’ where astronauts are trained for space-walks.
The VR experience proved to be a highly effective one – almost literally ‘immersive’ in this case – but as Chem Assayag, Viaccess-Orca’s EVP of Marketing and Sales, pointed out, “The main thing that is new that we are showing is that we tie that to an advertising approach, which is how can you collate information from the experience to provide useful information to advertisers.”
Viaccess-Orca achieved this on its IBC stand last month by exploiting the multiple sensors involved in VR to track the eye movements of the user, in order to create ‘heat-maps’ after the event. These identified the ‘hot-spots’ in the 360-degree sphere that the user had looked at most frequently.
“Let’s say that you are broadcasting a [VR] sports event and there are many advertising billboards around the stadium,” said Assayag. “You will be able to see which ones people are actually looking at, and then obviously the space might be more expensive in this case. [Or] you can try different ads and see which one is most efficient, which one people pay attention to until the end of it. Based on this content, we can show people what they have looked at, and from there we create these heat-maps and different insights.”
What Viaccess-Orca was proposing was, in effect, a new, exposure-based measurement system for measuring ad impact within a VR environment, which could be one of the metrics used for monetising the new medium.
Assayag described the demo as “taking [VR] to a different level in terms of, ‘Okay, what is it for?’ The experience for the user is very nice, but then from a business standpoint, it can be used by the operators and the advertisers to create new business models.”
For Viaccess-Orca, extracting useful data from advanced TV experiences in order to monetise them was very much a theme at IBC this year. The company’s new OTT cloud-based platform, TV Everywhere-as-a-Service (TVaaS), now comes with a new analytics module that provides “all the relevant information to the business and marketing people on the operator side to understand what’s happening on the platform,” noted Assayag, who described it as “a breakthrough in the TV space as far as I am concerned. I haven’t seen this kind of level of data insight being provided to operators and current providers just with a simple click.”
Viaccess-Orca’s aim is to offer a “360-degree view” bringing together different data-sets and insights from different technologies, said Assayag. He described it as “very strange” that in an age when consumers can access a converged TV, data and mobile offer from an operator, “each of these verticals is being addressed as a silo” within the company. “The mobile guys from the same company might have no clue about what you are consuming when you are watching TV, and the guy [in charge of] TV maybe has no clue about your plan in terms of what you pay for data on your mobile.”