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Oculous prime

By Dave Evans 24-04-2014

Let me start with two tantalising speculations about exactly where television might be in 10 years’ time:

  • On your wall – and I don’t mean the 40in or 50in screen that you may already have, hung on brackets. I mean that your whole wall could be literally a TV screen, giving you a window on the world in any way you want it to. In a decade from now, bandwidth to the home will be sufficient to display streamed video on every square inch of wall in a mid-size home. There are people right now experimenting with ultra-thin flexible displays and smart coatings spread on the wall like cream cheese that will enable you to turn any room of your house into a communications and entertainment portal.

 

  • In your head – or so it will seem. There’s a wonderful device being developed called an oculus rift, a kind of virtual reality headset that will revolutionise people’s gaming experience, and could also, I believe, make television a more immersive experience for viewers. The latest version has a high-resolution 1080p display, with accelerometers and gyros in the headset so that as you look up or look down, the display changes to match what you’re looking at. After a few seconds, you forget that you’re wearing it. I watched a sample demo of a roller coaster ride, and my body was almost instantly reacting just as if I was on the real thing.

 

One thing emerging clearly right now is that video is no longer just for passive consumption; it has become an interactive experience. Consumers are being bombarded by so many sources of video and content. When you watch television, you often see Twitter posts scrolling across the screen. You may have your iPod or tablet on your lap, to watch something else on a secondary screen. With wearable technology like smartwatches, there could even be a tertiary stream feeding into your entertainment experience.

To cut through all that noise, TV networks are going to have to adapt or die, spending significantly more to make their product stand out. Broadcasters and publishers will have to try harder to create content that is more customised, targeted according to a consumer’s individual preferences, their previous viewing history and where they are at the point of consumption, so that it doesn’t get lost in the competing chatter.

As television becomes more interactive, it will also offer greater opportunities for advertisers. They will devise clever and entertaining ads done so well they seem to be part of the show, so that if you spot an actor wearing a leather jacket you particularly like, or using a new gadget you covet, you will be able to buy it and have it shipped to your home within hours.

And how exactly will we use that extra bandwidth to the home, enabling you to have displays on every wall and, in effect, live inside a giant television set? You could be cooking the recipe shown on MasterChef, which is being streamed to the tiles above your hob.

Today we tend to think of video as something that is on or off, but once you can create a display on any surface, that will change – just as a few years back we used to think of the internet as on or off via dial-up, but now, with broadband, we are connected all the time. Your parents or your children can be with you all the time, and you will only have to walk past the particular wall that acts as your portal to them to stop and say ‘hi.’

Let’s finish with a real stunner: virtual actors. We’ve already seen amazing virtual environments and characters in films like Avatar and Lord of the Rings, but that’s only the beginning. Soon we will be able routinely to augment casts with virtual actors so life-like they will be indistinguishable from a living, breathing human. Take a look at the Digital Emily project, the work of a company called Image Metrics, which has posted examples of its progress so far on YouTube. The results are breathtaking. A virtual actor can do stunts a real actor can’t; they can be killed or dismembered and come back to life. My bet is that within two decades, a virtual actor will win an Oscar.

Why stop there? Virtual actors may even be subtly morphed into a unique cast member designed to appeal specifically to you, based on personal preferences extracted from the available data on you as a viewer and pulling information from your social network.

As they say, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

This article is an extract from UKTV’s 2024: The Future of Television, the full version of which is available at www.corporate.uktv.co.uk

today's correspondent

Dave Evans Chief futurist Cisco
Dave-Evans PERSP

David Evans is Cisco’s chief futurist; a technologist and evangelist who shares his vision of technology’s evolution in anticipation of the coming decades. Evans assesses technology’s future impact on Cisco customers, businesses, and industries – with the goal of evoking inspiration when it comes to the practical application of technological advances. A Cisco veteran of more than 23 years, Evans is a member of the Corporate Technology Group, where he is responsible for identifying disruptive technologies that are relevant and aligned to Cisco.

Follow him @DaveTheFuturist.

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