Augmented Reality

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Real News in the Times of Virtual Reality

Real News in the Times of Virtual Reality

Broadcasters around the world are exploring augmented reality ranging from stand-alone storytelling experiences to immersive broadcasts, and behind the scene, tours to enhance the viewing experience.

HoloLens[1] defines augmented reality as an offshoot of virtual reality that allows computer-generated graphics to be inserted into a real environment. With Facebook acquiring Oculus Rift and Google investing over $500 million in Magic Leap in 2014, the interest in virtual reality has fueled further.

Broadcasters are using products like Vizrt, Chyron, Brainstorm Virtual Set, WASP3D, Pixelpower, and Orad to make news and storytelling more interesting. For example, Al Arabiya used floating virtual 3D models of the Capitol and White House over an outdoor space to cover U.S. 2016 elections. The Washington Post covered the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore in 2016 by creating an augmented reality story.

Pic Credit: BT Sports
Pic Credit: BT Sports

In a series of firsts, BT Sport made UEFA Champions League finals available in 360° virtual reality on TV and online, 4K UHD on YouTube, and 4K UHD with Dolby Atmos. In 2017, the New York Times produced “Life on Mars” – a 360 video series chronicling the lives of NASA astronauts living on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, which had a Mars-like condition.

NBC made VR replays, highlight packages, and 50 hours of live 360-degree video coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics available on a wide variety of devices via the NBC Sports VR app.

Pic Credit: BBC.CO.UK
Pic Credit: BBC.CO.UK

BBC experimented with traditional CGI-based VR, 360-video, and AR. Both ‘Easter Rising’ and ‘We Wait’ are fully interactive VR experiences, which makes the viewer participate in the action. BBC also has an app with a range of productions for 360-degree video.

UK-based Sky partnered with Jaunt – a white-label VR distribution platform to launch a smartphone VR app to offer 360-degree videos covering material from film, sport, and the arts. Sky also used AR for their marketing campaigns, where passers-by at London’s Waterloo Station could take photos with virtual characters like Spiderman and SpongeBob Squarepants.

All the examples above highlight the fact that VR is gradually becoming an integrated part of many newsrooms. With technological advancements and cheaper options like cardboard headsets, 360-videos is becoming more accessible to viewers.

However compelling it might be, media brands are still holding off from making substantial investments in VR because of the following reasons:

  • Producers are still figuring out ‘what works for VR.’ Though news VR has expanded beyond documentary, there is still not enough content to drive the audience.
  • News VR is still not immersive. Viewable on mobile or a browser, consumers do not get the immersive experience that comes with a high-end headset.
  • Though some broadcasters are partnering with organizations like Samsung and Google for VR operations, monetization is still a challenge. News broadcasters are yet to figure out a way to earn revenue out of the technology.

The news industry needs to work together to deliver on the promise of VR. Though what lies ahead is still not clear, the future of VR in news broadcast looks promising.

[1] https://www.ibc.org/consumption/virtual-reality-and-augmented-reality-in-broadcasting-/2807.article

Top six trends that are shaping the future of television

Top six trends that are shaping the future of television

We don’t know how, when and why Television has always been called an Idiot Box world over. On the contrary, it is a smart device which has encapsulated our attention unabashedly over the longest period of time since its inception and the first television service by British Broadcasting Corporation in 1936. Today, even after 80 years, it rules our heart and is still a major source of entertainment and global information.

The television industry in the last few decades has grown extensively and the wave continues. Whether in terms of technology, state-of-the-art looks or content, many key players in a highly competitive market keep up with the pace of development. Advancements in terms of knowledge, exposure, urbanization, increased buying power and a continuous shift in user preferences keep the innovators on their toes to think beyond the edge.

In terms of technology, the end users might think that now the peak has arrived, and there is nothing more that innovators can come up with. But we also agree with the mystic power of human brain who, if one can anticipate the current trends, is surely preparing for something which will take television technology to an altogether another level of viewing.

Some of the trends that are shaping the future of Television include:

  1. Holographic TV

BBC has always been a front-runner as far as anything concerned with TV goes. It has trialed for a technology and content wherein a fairly big size TV is laid flat and simple, old Victorian theatre techniques are used to create 3D images which seem to float in the air.1

Though a Holographic TV is still at its nascent stage the initiation is applaudable.

  1. Data Analytics

The revolution, “Big Data Analytics” aids smart viewership. Early adopters like Netflix have used it extensively to create a niche and specialize in the domain as creative as content production. We hope to see it being widely adopted, more hands-on to optimize produced or acquired content. The steps are simple; behavioral data is collected from various sources, classified and judged to help identify end-user preferences.

  1. Virtual Reality

In terms of technology, Virtual Reality predictably is the next big thing which aims at completely revolutionizing the concept of TV watching. It’s an ever-growing popular culture wherein a consumer after wearing a VR headset can explore virtual, computer-generated worlds. It replicates an environment and simulates user’s real-time presence and allows full interaction. VR, when integrated with TV shows can help a user be a part of that show. Looks a bit far-fetched at the moment, but not too far also. In fact, Director Steven Soderbergh’s new ambitious project Mosaic, an interactive narrative app is a perfect example of this concoction. It is due to release soon where the audience becomes a part of the narration and gets the leverage to decide how the story should unfold. It’s a new way of storytelling and irrespective of its response and real-time success paves way for more such experiments.2

  1. Virtualization

Virtualization creates an ecosystem where independent services can share a common platform. It will surely take some time to realize this completely but cloud-based broadcasting wherein the content is put on public clouds for smooth broadcasting and viewing experience, is fast catching up. In fact, coming years will see major investments in cloud solutions. It does away with huge hardware investments and their maintenance and broadcasters benefit in terms of scalability and high levels of efficiency. They are extremely cost-effective with reduced turnaround time and helps manage viewer demands to a large extent. Predictably, a cloud utility model is surely going to turn Broadcasters into Orchestrators whose job would be to deliver aggregated content. The transition is already on its way. Key players like BBC, Disney/ABC Television have started making the shift as the world moves towards Virtualization. 3

  1. Immersive and Interactive Experience-Augmented Reality

Technologists have always aimed for maximum consumer participation. Tools are being developed to involve our sensory powers to blur the line between the real and digital world thereby making the viewer part of the content. A mid-world is created where 3D and 4D images give the brain a real-time perception and the user feels more involved. 3D audio effects surround sound helps manipulate a sound one hears and provides a more real-time effect. One can easily confuse this with Virtual Reality but Augmented Reality deals more with the real world. It enhances the experience by adding drama to it. And Broadcasters are making hands-on use of it by developing more interactive and engaging shows with maximum audience participation.

Plans to introduce Interactive Advertising by Channel 4 on British TV is one step forward to it where watchers would enjoy the liberty to choose different ads, watch different content or even buy the products instantly.4

  1. Humanoids, AI comes to Television Broadcasting

Robots have always fascinated us since time immemorial. Recently, a real-time robot or a Humanoid, Sophia surfaced on BBC television featuring as a spokesperson on BBC’s Earth TV. It is made of frubber (flesh rubber) and is highly sophisticated. It has a human face and also emulates real-time human emotions. It is not functioning in artificial intelligence. Rather it has scripted answers. One can only anticipate the whole experience of television watching in the future with more such humanoid interactions. 5

On the Whole

Above are some of the trends observed that are going to shape the future of TV. And it doesn’t stop here. The list is ever growing. Technologists and innovators are constantly aiming for utmost consumer participation and keep them more involved and engaged. Broadcasters are trying really hard to absorb new technologies and amalgamating them to give their audiences different forms of experiences thereby entertaining them. The game is actually to play with the human mind and show them something which ups their curiosity level. It is a new age fairy tale times which is illusionary and beautiful and forces one to be a part of those moments.