Hot Emerging Broadcast Technologies for 2018

Today’s TV market is inundated with claims of the ‘next big thing.’ We can expect even more of these claims as we approach this year’s end. From virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), to artificial intelligence (AI), to voice-controlled devices—consumers today are being offered new and engaging ways to get the most from their entertainment experiences.

The January, 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas will be 2018’s first showcase for new technology. Companies from around the world will assemble in the LV convention halls, all eager to showcase their new products and technology themes to show attendees. What might be some of the hot technologies on display?

Emerging consumer tech in IoT, VR, digital assistants, 4K, and more are projected to exceed $26 billion by this year’s end. Couple this with the forecast that more than $126b will be spent on artificial intelligence by 2025, and we can understand why M&E companies are prioritizing these technologies. 

Viewers will be looking for more 4K and HDR content to enjoy on their new TV sets in 2018. Image: Netflix.

Viewers will be looking for more 4K and HDR content to enjoy on their new TV sets in 2018. Image: Netflix.

AI will be a key technology in 2018

Technologies such as VR, AR, and voice capabilities, are (to varying levels) becoming interactive parts of viewers’ daily lives. Other technologies, like AI, can help to improve the viewing experience from behind the scenes.

While all of these technologies have the potential to greatly change how we approach entertainment, I foresee backend technologies, like AI, having a larger immediate impact on the streaming viewer’s experience compared to shinier consumer tech that is frequently heavily promoted. At IBC I joined a panel to talk about the impact of emerging technology on the M&E industry. As we are approaching the new year, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of some of the panel’s top-of-mind takeaways.

Getting real about VR and AR

In the near term, expect to see many more opportunities for curated content from AR than from VR. Today, VR is a great example of a technology that has a lot of hype, but the market demand still needs to catch up. Last year, VR sales, even when backed by tech powerhouses like Facebook, Google, and Samsung, were below expectations. Without mass VR hardware adoption from consumers, the VR market will continue to lag behind the hype. Just as 3D technology fizzled when consumers did not want to constantly wear 3D glasses, VR hardware is still viewed as isolating and a burden to the viewing experience. 

Virtual reality will see slower market acceptance because of the requirement to wear a headset.

Virtual reality will see slower market acceptance because of the requirement to wear a headset.

The AR market won’t face the same hurdles to hardware adoption that VR will. Over 2 billion people worldwide already own smartphones, which is a key distribution platform for AR. AR can also be deployed faster and has significantly more applications than a virtual world— leading to higher rates of adoption of AR over VR in the next few years.

VR has definitely started creeping into consumers’ worlds. However, the countless scenarios and opportunities available for AR, where one can blend real world interfaces into reality, and combined with data, make it a more attractive option to enhance media and entertainment experiences.

Voice-controlled devices

Popular streaming services like Netflix, which offers 6,000 titles, and Amazon Prime Video, which boasts over 18,000 titles, require advanced search capabilities to help viewers sort through these massive content libraries. Text-based search has simplified content discovery for early streaming services, but we’re now moving on into the next chapter.

Voice-controlled searches via smart speakers and voice remotes, are the “unexpected hits” bound to become the most prevalent interactive technology among consumers. Why? Simply put: these devices greatly enhance the user experience and increase accessibility to video content. Using voice search, audiences who may not typically frequent streaming services, such as the boomer generation, will be able to take full advantage of the video content available to them.

We’re at a crucial point with voice-enabled devices, a point of mass consumer adoption, that other trends like VR and AR just haven’t seen yet. Studies have shown that almost half (43%) of consumers are streaming from connected devices. Coupled with the reports that 60% of consumers use voice remotes daily, it’s safe to say that voice search is here to stay and will only continue to expand in 2018.

The role of AI in viewing

While consumers are increasingly exploring with VR, AR, and voice technologies, AI remains the unsung hero of the viewing experience. Plenty of industry experts, myself included, are excited for what’s to come with AI. Conversely, many consumers don’t realize how influential AI can be to their streaming experiences. AI can touch every part of the ecosystem from video workflows, to advertising, to content creation and acquisition decisions

Both content production decisions and viewers’ choice of programs to watch will increasingly be driven by the power of AI technology as content producers and programmers battle for audiences.

Both content production decisions and viewers’ choice of programs to watch will increasingly be driven by the power of AI technology as content producers and programmers battle for audiences.

What does this mean for the consumer? Thanks to advanced metadata tagging, AI can analyze vast amounts of data, understand exactly what comprises a video, and uncover surprising insights about what makes this content successful among consumer audiences. By gleaning data from videos, entertainment executives can use AI to help decide what kinds of content to show, at which times, and to which audiences.

We’re really just scratching the surface with how transformative AI technology will be. Personally, I’m eager to see how quickly this technology will influence media companies to leverage this tool to develop data-driven content decisions and establish new workplace behaviors.

What’s next?

So where is the future of entertainment headed in 2018? You can expect to see more applications of AR, while VR continues to find its footing. We’re seeing real promise for pervasive consumer-facing technologies like voice-enabled search and discovery, and those capabilities will continue to recruit new and diverse audiences to streaming platforms.

The behind-the-scenes technology powered by AI will reimagine how we produce, distribute, and monetize content for our audiences. Almost paradoxically, AI will ultimately have a more direct influence on the viewer experience than interactive and shiny consumer tech like VR.

David Mowrey, Head of Product and Business Development, for IBM Watson Media

David Mowrey, Head of Product and Business Development, for IBM Watson Media

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