Here are some IBC demonstrations we liked, and why we think they are important…
For our IBC wrap-up story, go here.
What: An AR/VR stadium experience without the VR content, with AR/VR content navigation and a virtual companion.
Why it matters: Great use of augmented reality graphics to provide the content navigation and overall UX (including additional programme information) to accompany future VR services. Viewer immersion for services that lack VR content or the technology to deliver it. The emergence of the virtual companion screen, something we have not seen before.
Details: Accedo’s Terra Nova proof-of-concept demonstration provides an example of how you can create a VR-like immersive environment for watching content that is not yet delivered in virtual reality. In effect, you sit in an empty arena watching a big screen in front of you, which is showing the match in 2D. You can look around the empty arena – something like being in a cinema (without the people, in this demo).
You need a VR headset. If you look down you can see a timeline graphic (apparently suspended in thin air) that gives you points at which major incidents happened during the game (in this case, a basketball match). If you click on one of these highlights, you can watch a replay of the action. Interestingly, this on-demand highlight appears on a virtual tablet, which you can ‘hold’ in your hand and move (i.e. closer to you, further away, to one side). In effect, the Terra Nova user experience has created a virtual companion screen to accompany the main broadcast, which continues to play out on the ‘big screen’ in front of you.
Once back to the main screen mode (so the virtual companion has disappeared) you could click on a graphic for player statistics and the virtual remote control (the graphic that represents the real remote control that is in your hand) is surrounded by what can best be described as ‘Top Trumps’ cards, spread out so you can see approximately six of them. These cards contain a player photo and vital player statistics from the game.
The overall effect was to suck you into a virtual world that was very distinct from reality, yet where the primary content stream was ‘nothing more’ than a standard widescreen television display. Accedo was demonstrating the VR user interface rather than VR content itself – offering an example of how we could navigate in a more immersive VR-like world.
What: Instant content promotion, picked from a CMS and displayed immediately in the user interface, as part of OpenTV Signature Edition.
Why it matters: Service providers want to monetise content fully and this will help achieve that.
Details: OpenTV Signature Edition is more of a service delivery backoffice than a middleware and among other things it provides content management capabilities. At IBC, the company showed how a content professional can select an on-demand title from a catalogue list on their console so that, with one mouse click, the title instantly appears on the real programme guides that users see, as promoted content. It was a great example of how agile the user interface is becoming, even for set-top boxes. This could take content trending into account – so if a title or subject or person is trending on social media, you can quickly promote content associated with them.
Who: Ericsson (encoding) Tiledmedia (tiled VR streaming) and Sky (football content)
What: VR and 360-degree proof-of-concept
Why it matters: A great example of the future of television sport, maximising its impact as a special event through greater immersion, and providing examples of two levels of immersion: total immersion (with headset) and a more sociable (and more easily delivered) mid-immersion using the tablet only.
Details: Ericsson and TiledMedia were demonstrating how a combination of UHD/4K, VR and 360-degree video could revolutionise the living room TV experience. Using football content provided by Sky (and encoded by Ericsson), the IBC proof-of-concept combined great-looking broadcast UHD on a large television set and then VR football. Once you put on a Samsung Gear VR headset you were ‘taken into’ the stadium, as if you were in the stands, able to look around you at fans in all directions).
Separately, and enabling a less immersive but still valuable 360-degree experience, a Samsung Galaxy S3 tablet was showing the game and you could move the tablet in any direction to see what was happening ‘behind’ you, to your side (like on the touchline) and on the pitch (where the main broadcast feed was ‘looking’). You could even swing the tablet towards the ceiling and see the Sky above the stadium.
Ericsson provided the HEVC encoding, with the 360-degree video encoded in segments that are made available in a low-resolution and high-resolution version. When you focus on a part of the scene, you immediately switch to the high-resolution view. If you swing quickly to another side of the ground, you will initially see the lower resolution encode and then the high-resolution version will appear – not dissimilar to how adaptive bit-rate video improves once the stream is running. The key to a good experience is a fast switch from low-resolution to high-resolution as you settle your focus.
A 4k x 2k panorama was used for the football content but the background content was 1k x 0.5k. By switching fast enough, the lower resolution background does not detract from the experience. (A second part of the demo showed Formula 3 racing and the source for that content was an 8k x 4k panorama).
Who: Net Insight
What: Time-shift (rewind and start-over) on live online simulcasts with multi-device synchronisation.
Why it matters: Providing tight synchronisation between live broadcast TV and live streaming enables an event experience to be spread across screens (e.g. main broadcast, tablet head-cam angle, smartphone pit-stop view). However, if you rewind the ‘live’ main screen TV experience, you want all the synchronised additional views to rewind too, and resume in perfect synchronisation.
Details: The demonstration is based on the Sye technology from Net Insight, which synchronises live streaming almost exactly to live broadcasts (by eliminating OTT latency). The demo we saw was limited to one tablet screen for the time-shift function, so proved the lack of buffering and quick resume after a live online stream had been rewound, without providing the time-shifted synchronisation.
We are flagging it here, however, because it is such a great concept. Rewinding all the complementary screen experiences at the same time (including different camera angles but also statistics and anything else that makes up a multi-device, multi-faceted viewing experience) and then resuming these different streams together, behind-live, still in perfect synchronisation, makes it more likely that this multi-faceted viewing experience can become normal.
What: The infusion of sports and music into the television experience in an effort to increase loyalty among sport/music superfans.
Why it matters: TV aggregators need to maximise engagement and keep people in their user interface – giving them more within the ‘walled garden’ so they leave it less often. This concept achieves that, and could appeal to younger consumers.
Details: Gracenote is, above all else, a metadata provider that can harness rich data about entertainment (including music) and also sports to lead people to content and enrich that content (like with complementary information). A simple example is providing a Michael Phelps (Olympic swimmer) fan with details of every event he has already appeared in at the Olympics, every event he is scheduled to appear in, every chat show where he has been a guest, and every documentary that discusses him.
That is only context to the demo, which is a more obvious use-case where live sports is dramatically enriched by complementary data and interactive services. Thus, you are watching a game, press for more information to see an IP overlay that shows you the group standings for a football tournament, and this links you to teams and then to their players, where you can find other programmes where each of those players has appeared (so, using an old example, David Beckham appearing on the Graham Norton chat show in the UK). Alternatively, events schedules and medal tables can link directly to live or on-demand programming. Depending on how passionate you are about the ‘subject’, you can just keep on digging.
What: Dynamic ad insertion for simulcast live streaming, with targeting, using an integration with Videology.
Why it matters: It enables multiscreen live (or linear) content to be monetised better, or monetised for the first time.
Details: See more in our IBC wrap-up, here.
What: 2025 television vision
Why it matters: It was a worthy effort to articulate the long-term television user experience, even if it was a case of vision-over-reality.
Details: Nokia has researched where a combination of emerging technologies like machine learning, AI, automation and wallpaper or projector video display technologies could lead us. The demonstration showed the home of the future and how we could sit in a room where every (in this case, vast and generous) window becomes a giant television screen.
Thus, we were surrounded by window-televisions, which could easily be wallpaper televisions (so every wall is a borderless TV, too, when video display film/wallpaper becomes mainstream). We sat in the cockpit of a Formula One car as it raced around the streets of west London. It was a great experience, immersive but without the goggles, and thus social. The UI was overlaid on the windows.
This was the perfect television world, which one day we may reach. Very much a vision rather than a tech-demo, but we are mentioning it here partly because the frameless television, which frees video display from physical borders, is coming. Because the television can be anywhere you want it to be, it could be a moderate sized TV on one window/wall, then an 84-inch TV on a different wall, and then a complete every-wall/window 360-degree experience that literally wraps around the entire room.
If you remember the wonderful NDS/Cisco Surfaces (later called Fresco) demonstration from IBC in 2011, you will already be familiar with the idea of borderless TVs that can change size according to your needs and moods (32-inches on your kitchen wall over breakfast, 72-inches for a movie at night, etc.).
Whether Nokia can bring its own vision to market, or be the first to do so, is not really relevant. The interesting thing here is that the vendor clearly believes we are going to reach a big inflection point in this market – the result of multiple emerging technologies coming together. They want to set their focus well into the future and try to exploit the technology disruption they anticipate.
Editor’s take-aways from IBC2017
Our wrap-up story is here.
Top photo courtesy of IBC