Mike Hopkins, our Mobile Marketing Manager, attended the Future of Innovation in Television Technology Taskforce, an event organized by the Digital TV Group (DTG) which also had Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries as a special guest. Here’s a short summary of what happened on the day.
The Digital TV Group (DTG) is the industry association for digital television in the UK. The Group was formed in 1995 to set technical standards for the implementation of digital terrestrial television in Great Britain and now publishes and maintains the technical specification for the Freeview and Freeview HD platforms (the D-Book).
Imagination is part of the DTG together with other companies and organisations involved in digital television and we joined this year’s event to form a taskforce focused on specific measures which should be implemented to leverage the UK’s track record of innovating in television technology.
The second screen experience
From the start, one of the recurring themes was the use of tablets or smartphones as companion devices and remote controls, coupled with new user interfaces for FreeView, FreeSat, YouView and other digital terrestrial television platforms that would enable these use patterns. To find out more about the concept, Simon Forrest – our Senior Marketing Manager for Connected Home – dealt with the subject on a recent blog post on the Future of TV and which expands on some of the possibilities behind using touchscreen-based devices to enhance the viewing experience. There’s also an interesting article you can read in the Guardian on the second screen experience. From what we’ve seen, most of the UIs today are still oriented towards TV focused program guides. But it’s a step in the right direction as companies integrate smart TV functionality and 3D graphics to provide a more user-centric experience, like the new Avalon 300R Connect media centre from Pure. The mobile and tablet apps haven’t yet been optimised for performance and the level of control exercised by the industry is still to be determined (e.g. differences between FreeView and FreeSat UI and set top box specifications).
Sky has an app that turns a tablet into a touchscreen remote control for its set-top boxes
Another interesting discussion was around the need for open APIs in program guides and remote control functionality to allow OEMs to differentiate their products. Developers could benefit from this too, as they would build more compelling applications for TV control and content selection using tablets and smartphones as companion devices.
Standards, platforms and developers for smart televisions
Companies like BBC have pushed for open APIs and 3D UIs in the past but received a limited response to their ideas across the industry. Perhaps now the time is right for this to happen as it is a real opportunity for OEMs to innovate and transform the way consumers enjoy their TV viewing experience. It would allow them to gain a good share of the digital TV market over the next few years, for studies show consumers in the UK are keen to adopt smart TVs provided they have the right functionality.
Other developments touched upon during discussions included the integration of video encoders into TVs and set-top boxes to enable efficient transcoding of content for distribution to other devices within the home network. This is a perfect fit for us as Imagination announced the release of the PowerVR Series4 video IP cores – a new family of VPUs (Video Processing Units). For example, the PowerVR Series4 multi-standard, multi-stream video encoders are capable of supporting all major HD and still image standards as well as resolutions up to 4Kx2K@30fps. The video encoder’s input scaler is also capable of downscaling incoming video data. This is useful in a variety of applications including adaptive streaming, and simulcasting low resolution and high resolution video. The encoder IP core also has support for H.264 lossless mode, which is useful for applications requiring the highest fidelity transmission of video.
The Smart TV concept has a unique and complete proposition*
We also had a look at the FreeView, FreeSat, YouView and Sky demos which were all showing off their new UIs and iPhone and iPad apps with a big promotion for use of tablets and smartphones as companion devices. There was also a Toshiba 4K TV on display at the BBC booth which was showing Ultra HD content.
Building an ecosystem for smart TVs with PowerVR graphics and video
From some of the technical discussions, it became clear that a lot of people were interested in how they could efficiently interface their middleware to Imagination’s hardware. As our PowerVR graphics cores support a range of open and proprietary APIs such as OpenGL, OpenGL ES, OpenCL or DirectX, there are a lot of feature-oriented applications that developers could write for smart TVs. And our PowerVR Insider ecosystem is, of course, available to help those developers optimise their applications for PowerVR graphics.
For example, social media integration could become the next killer application as consumers could have the chance to share and comment on the content they are watching as well as organize virtual living rooms where people across the world could join in for simultaneous viewing enabling a true interactive experience. Also issues with assuring an Internet safe browsing experience or performing advanced pre- and post-processing effects to improve image quality could easily be addressed.
Majority of TV viewing now ‘on demand’ for 1 in 4 Brits, finds new Smart TV research*
Overall, the general consensus was that the event provided a good opportunity for people in the industry to interact and discuss on the possibilities for innovation in the TV space and its underlying technologies. We would like to thank the Digital TV Group for the invitation and look forward to attend even more events organized by them, with the highlight being the DTG Summit which is to be held next year.
Do you know of other exciting initiatives behind the future of TV? Let us know in the comment section below and follow us on Twitter for more news, events and other interesting announcements.
* Images courtesy of YouGov.uk, all rights reserved