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Tomorrow's Living Room

by Klaus Oestreicher

A young Swedish researcher, Andreas Wiss, carried out a survey of future technologies which could be brought into the living rooms of tomorrow. His study examines the role DVD plays in the context of emerging delivery technologies.

Considering the opportunities on the horizon and those already at hand, Andreas suggests an interesting field of investigation in which the Home Entertainment industry could win back some lost ground.

First, the study calls for “proactive” considerations going above and beyond mere technology (increasing storage disc capacity or improving speed performance and picture quality).

The gaming industry moves into an interesting territory by increasing interactivity of games. Interactivity is a key word, which may give a clue, indeed may underpin, future business successes. Media are often seen as a scourge splitting family activities, but, by offering the possibility of interaction, media can as well support new ways of reuniting the family life.

We all know the typical scenario today: the father and mother are sitting in the living room, watching TV or a DVD, while the children are in their bedrooms listening to music, surfing the Net or playing video games.

From the social scientist’s viewpoint that is not quite the definition of a close family life. It rather describes parallel lives evolving in the same space. Hence, the proposal of a Home Entertainment’s value chain based on some form of scenario planning that seeks to identify opportunities that contribute to reuniting a family in tomorrow’s living rooms.

So far as this is a worthy goal to attain, it requires on the part of the package media industry to think beyond disc replication, beyond the sole daily fulfilment of orders. It requires thinking about the provision of content of common interest to all family members. Interactivity is surely the component that ought to be embedded in content with which different family members can “play” together.

That is not detached from reality, as two students from the University of Weimar proved a few years ago with their award-winning interactive film, where the play could be influenced at various “crossings.”

Another opportunity for interactive components was presented in Munich last month: DVDs enabling access to secret content from the web, a sort of content pull. Such downloaded content can trigger varying outcomes, that is, producing different, unexpected outcomes each time it is used.

Users may then store these different, interactive components they created to continue the “movie”-game another day, transferring such content back to a hard drive, an operation that can be described as content push.

For their part, content providers should offer such a system’s high performance since a more central role can thus be achieved, bringing together business interests and social responsibility for family lives. At once, they will set in motion a process that convert intangible assets into tangible outcomes in the shape of collectable disc boxes.

Today’s living rooms are often adorned with a collection of beautiful books people are proud of. Why shouldn’t tomorrow’s living rooms bookshelves be augmented with an eye-catching library of CDs and DVDs? Surely, well-packaged DVDs can be as good-looking as collectable books.

The process of Home Entertainment modernisation, from book library to media collection, which offers content with a high potential for peer-to-peer interaction, ought to be more effective than advertisement alone, hence generating more sales at good prices.

The conclusion is that the daily business should not avoid strategic thinking about tomorrow. There are still opportunities, but they need to be seized. As it was said quite a while ago, “the best way to create the future is to invent it”.

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Prospects for 3D in the home

There has been a lot of hype about 3D TV. But the industry getting behind a broad realm of technologies is a far cry from a monetisable mass market. Fundamentally, 3D is complex, more so than HD as technology and ecosystem. Screen Digest' TOM MORROD examines the issue.

This complexity will be reflected in uptake of 3D. It is often said that 3D is easier for consumers to 'see' than HD, thus driving true demand. But it can be countered that a market is not just about demand. It is about supply, price and information - all in questionable quantities.

Supply is a big piece of the puzzle and crucially, like HD, 3D is an ecosystem. It is certainly about the TV receiver, polarised or active switching; the glasses (easily forgotten but not necessarily 'in the box'). But it also takes in the decoding device - set-top box, games console or BD player; the distribution medium (broadcast/unicast), games console or 3D BD; the content and the process of capture, editing and contribution, including broadcasting infrastructure when not printed to disc.

Only about 20 per cent of broadcaster equipment is HD, 30 per cent of TV screens and less than that of set-top boxes. We are still in a very early stage of actual upgrade across the HD ecosystem. And while the HD infrastructure across broadcasters and operators can be used to transmit lower resolution 3D to some existing HD PVRs, all those TV screens will need replacing.

Price is a murky issue spanning both consumer and professional equipment. Many of the early announced prices for 3D TV sets are considerable inflations on similar non-3D TVs. This is especially true for passive polarised, where more technology is built into the display. However, active switching, offering screens at similar prices to non-3D displays, have a hidden cost: the glasses may cost up to $150 a pair, a major consumer cost.... Read More...