We Should Expect 50 TV Everywhere Initiatives by July 2011

  • According to research and consulting firm Parks Associates, global pay TV providers are expected to have nearly 50 TV Everywhere initiatives underway by July, marking a major increase since the initiatives began in 2009.
  • Home Media Magazine reports that the ability of new tablets and smartphones to handle streaming video – in addition to the emerging growth of connected devices in the home – is helping to drive the trend.
  • “What’s remarkable is the pace of the growth,” said Brett Sappington, a senior analyst with Parks Associates. “Traditionally, operators are not quick to invest in this type of thing.”
  • It is projected that by next month, 81 percent of U.S. pay TV subscribers will have access to content on multiple devices.
  • In terms of how consumers are using TV Everywhere initiatives so far, Sappington reports that VOD is clearly outpacing live TV streaming (most likely due to the clear-cut rights operators have with VOD).

Phil Harrison: Apple Will Be the Games Industry

  • Edge Magazine speaks with Phil Harrison, former president of Sony Computer Entertainment’s Worldwide Studios, and recently appointed advisory board member of cloud-based streaming game service Gaikai.
  • Harrison answers questions on the future of gaming and suggests the following projections: Games will rely increasingly upon social networks; free-to-play will become the predominant business model in 20 years; local storage will disappear; music, film and television will be consumed like a utility and browsers will replace consoles (in the wake of a next-generation browser war).
  • On the future of non-physical media: “If you live in Korea, it’s already happened, if you live in China, it’s already happened. That’s an easy prediction to make: there is undoubtedly a generation of kids alive on the planet today who will never purchase a physical media package for any of their digital entertainment.”
  • On Apple’s impact on the market: “At this trajectory, if you extrapolate the market-share gains that they are making, forward for ten years – if they carry on unrestrained in their growth, then there’s a pretty good chance that Apple will be the games industry.”

Is Facebook Finally Ready to Announce its iPad App?

  • Facebook is reportedly preparing to release a free social networking iPad app, after nearly a year in development.
  • Developers have overhauled the Facebook Chat and Facebook Groups features, which are now in the final stages of testing.
  • The app will also allow users to shoot and upload photos and video content from the iPad’s built-in cameras.
  • “People who have seen the application said it has a slick design that has been tailored for the iPad and its touchscreen interface.” (Facebook users have previously complained (read the related TechCrunch post) that its interface is not optimized for touchscreen functionality.)
  • Facebook claims it is approaching 700 million users worldwide, with 250 million of them actively accessing the site on mobile devices.

ICANN Approves Historic Change to Internet Domains

  • The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international non-profit organization that governs website domains, has voted to allow custom, top-level, generic domains for those willing to pay.
  • “The era of .google, .microsoft and .apple is coming as ICANN decides to let organizations apply for custom domain suffixes.”
  • The proposed plan is expected to dramatically increase the number of Internet domain name endings from the current 22 generic offerings, by allowing domain names to end with almost any word in any language.
  • The Board vote was 13 approving, 1 opposed, and 2 abstaining.
  • The $185K fee and $25K annual cost is intended to deter cybersquatting and ensure applicants are not violating trademark rights.
  • “Many of the biggest brands are planning to apply for their .brand TLD, but many marketing leaders I’ve talked with look at this as a nuisance and are skeptical about whether Internet users will embrace them,” wrote Forrester analyst Jeff Ernst, in a blog post.

Discovery Launches Curiosity.com to Complement New Series

  • Discovery has launched a compelling new website designed to complement the network’s upcoming Curiosity TV series (August 2011).
  • Curiosity.com is a Q&A platform that presents interesting thoughts from some of the most talented people across a wide range of professions and areas of study.
  • Current contributors include Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf and Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel.
  • Cerf shares his ideas on what “friendship” means in the age of social media in addition to answering an array of tech-related questions. (Recent questions answered: Does misinformation on the Internet force us to think more critically? Is this the best time to be interested in science? What pieces of the Internet need to be fixed? What are some persistent threats to innovation?)
  • Wiesel addresses human rights, forgiveness and the power of the media. (Recent questions answered: Will future generations ever end discrimination? How can young people make change? What is your advice for future generations? What does the election of President Obama represent?)
  • Video interviews featuring new luminaries and innovators will be introduced each week.
  • Discovery plans to add social sharing functionality that will allow users to create their own profile pages and spark their own discussions.

Animation Technology Behind L.A. Noire Game Draws Attention

  • Depth Analysis is getting high praise for the 3D motion-capture technology it used in rendering facial expressions for the new L.A. Noire video game. The Australia-based company is working to perfect a full-body system that will let film directors “drop” actors into their movies.
  • L.A. Noire is the latest game from the Rockstar Games label (Take-Two Interactive Software). Team Bondi and Depth Analysis have been earning positive reviews for the game’s highly stylized, immersive and cinematic production design (check out the trailer here).
  • Development on the MotionScan 3D motion-capture system, which uses 32 HD cameras positioned at different levels to capture and create a 3D model, began in 2004. The infrastructure, pipeline and capture rig were all developed from scratch.
  • Depth Analysis has found success in realistically recreating the detail of actors’ facial performances for its video game and plans to use it more for capturing full-body performances.
  • The company has also been demonstrating the work-in-progress system to filmmakers. L.A. Noire writer-director Brendan McNamara explains that the appeal of the Depth Analysis system is its ability to drop actors into virtually any setting.
  • For those interested in a visual demonstration, CNET has posted a 6-minute GameSpot interview with Oliver Bao, head of R&D for Depth Analysis.
  • According to Bao (in an AWN interview last week): “We’ve managed to reproduce lifelike performances of actors. Getting the data compressed to fit game discs and render back at decent speed and quality have been reasons why this was not possible before. We’ve demonstrated that what you see is what you get; actors have their performances reproduced faithfully to the point that you can lip read what they’re saying in L.A. Noire. This is the first time we’ve allowed gamers to be able to enjoy believable acting on a console.”

SMPTE Launches Informational YouTube Video Channel

  • The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) launched its official YouTube channel earlier this month.
  • The channel will feature videos on the importance of industry standards and various clips on scientific and research findings from upcoming conferences.
  • Initial content will include a series of 60- second clips on the findings that will be presented at the SMPTE’s Second Annual International Conference on Stereoscopic 3D for Media and Entertainment (scheduled for tomorrow and Wednesday at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City).
  • Expect clips regarding human factors related to viewing 3D materials, live holographic television and computational photography.

Microsoft Announces Free Software Developer Kit for Kinect

  • Microsoft is helping developers looking to utilize the full potential of Kinect technology by releasing a software developer kit. While Microsoft wants to keep the focus on gaming, the company recognizes the potential for Kinect-based applications beyond video games.
  • Soon after Microsoft released the Kinect add-on for its Xbox (which has reportedly sold 10 million units), developers and hackers have been creating new and interesting ways of using Kinect and its motion-sensing camera system – from compelling interactive window displays to steering remote-controlled toy helicopters. There is even a Kinect Hacks site dedicated to such efforts.
  • Recognizing the strong interest in the technology, Microsoft officially announced the introduction of a free software developer kit for the Kinect.
  • According to the Microsoft blog: “This is only the beginning in our commitment to deliver an SDK to the community. Microsoft’s vision of the natural user interface is that interactions between people and computers will ultimately become invisible – computers will understand peoples’ gestures, listen for their voice commands, even interpret and respond to their expressions and inflections in voice.”

Nielsen Reports TV Viewing Increase Across All Platforms

  • Americans are watching on average 22 more minutes of television per month than last year, according to Nielsen’s cross-platform video report.
  • The average viewer watched more than 158 hours a month of television content on a TV set in Q1 2011.
  • Viewing has increased across all platforms, with Internet and mobile devices seeing increases of 34.5 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
  • However, a subset of viewers who access video via their PCs tend to watch significantly less traditional TV (especially in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic).
  • Nielsen credits the surge to increased amount and diversity of content in addition to the ability to view content based on viewer’s convenience.
  • Another factor is the rise of the tablet, which offers a bigger and better viewing surface than smartphones.
  • According to Peter V. Dobrow from Comcast, families are increasingly adopting mobile devices for TV viewing. “Families use them, if the adults want to watch one thing, then the kids can watch another on the iPad and the whole family can still be in the same room,” Dobrow said. “We’re pulling together different apps and trying to make it easier to use and more consumer friendly.”

Multiplatform News: Google Acquires SageTV

  • Google announced it has acquired Inglewood, California-based SageTV and the company’s multiplatform DVR technology.
  • SageTV integrates broadcast, Internet, Netflix and Hulu via its Home Theater PC (HTPC) software.
  • SageTV Placeshifter enables users to view TV from any high-speed Internet connection, similar to Slingbox.
  • Although details have yet to be announced, we may see SageTV functionality incorporated into Google TV.
  • From the SageTV site: “We’ve seen how Google’s developer efforts are designed to stimulate innovation across the web, and as developers have played a core role in the success of SageTV, we think our shared vision for open technology will help us advance the online entertainment experience.”
  • The Engadget post features the SageTV press release and a 4-minute video (created by user jaredduq).

Smartphone Data Usage Hits All-Time High

  • It should come as no surprise that Nielsen’s monthly analysis of cellphone bills for more than 65,000 lines indicates that smartphone users (which comprise 37 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers) are consuming more data than ever before on a per-user basis (especially those with app-friendly iPhones and Android devices).
  • The average smartphone user is accessing 89 percent more data per month than last year’s figures, growing from an average of 230MB per month to 435MB per month in the first quarter of 2011.
  • Nielsen reports that “data usage for the top 10 percent of smartphone users (90th percentile) is up 109 percent while the top 1 percent (99th percentile) has grown their usage by an astonishing 155 percent from 1.8GB in Q1 2010 to over 4.6GB in Q1 2011.”
  • As data usage dramatically increases, most users are paying approximately the same amount they did a year ago for data, translating to a lower cost per unit of data consumed.  According to Nielsen: “The amount the average smartphone user pays per unit of data has dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last year, from 14 cents per megabyte (MB) to a mere 8 cents.”

Facebook Media Plans Include Spotify and Others

  • Facebook is working with Spotify and others to integrate new music services and applications.
  • The social networking giant has expanded its position in significant Internet sectors – including retail, news and games – and is now getting serious about music and other media.
  • At the recent Cable Show in Chicago, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts predicted that cloud-based guides and interfaces will be paramount to television’s future. Roberts described an integration with Facebook that can make TV more social with recommendations and interaction with “friends.”
  • Spotify already allows users to share info about songs with Facebook friends, but the next level of integration is expected to be much deeper. Additionally, Facebook has reportedly been reaching out to other online music services.
  • Facebook’s Music Dashboard will show songs of friends, recommended songs and “happenings” in your social and music areas.
  • This opens new potential for Facebook to become a social e-commerce business.

3D Phones: Next Big Thing or Next Big Gimmick?

  • Recent product announcements indicate 3D technology may not be just for cinema releases and home theaters, as the technology is beginning to make its way to mobile devices.
  • The first significant 3D mobile device was the Nintendo 3DS (launched in March). The $249 3DS features a 3.5-inch glasses-free 3D screen. However, sales so far have been disappointing. NPD Group reports that Nintendo sold almost 400,000 units in the first week following its U.S. launch (100,000 units less than sales of the original DS in November 2010).
  • Now, tablets and smartphones are in the 3D spotlight.
  • Rumors are surfacing that the next iPad will feature 3D capabilities – and two new Android smartphones, the LG Thrill and the HTC Evo 3D, are already touting glasses-free 3D.
  • Manufacturers hope these devices will make watching movies, playing games, and sharing photos more of an immersive experience.
  • The LG and HTC phones include special 5MP dual-lens cameras for shooting 3D photos and videos.
  • It is too early to tell whether 3D technology for mobile devices will be the next big thing or merely the next big gimmick. However, the much lower cost of mobile devices could make adoption more swift than its been for comparably higher priced HDTVs.
  • According to Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at NPD Group: “Handsets by themselves are typically not as strong a voice for developers to create 3D applications. If someone the likes of Apple or Google get into 3D, then there will be a large enough base.”

Is Gamification the Future of Work for Next Generation?

  • Salesforce.com chief scientist JP Rangaswami recently spoke at the ReadWriteWeb’s 2Way Summit about how game mechanics are impacting many aspects of our lives, with the enterprise poised to be next.
  • Rangaswami outlined what he sees as a new direction of “gamification” shaping the future of work.
  • A new generation of knowledge workers have different expectations and are motivated differently than workers before them.
  • Rangaswami explains that one way to motivate this generation is by incorporating game mechanics into the workplace, particularly as a means of rewarding performance (such as rewarding symbolic tokens like Foursquare badges).
  • According to the ReadWriteWeb article (which includes a video of Rangaswami’s session): “This type of gaming convention is familiar to the new generation of workers, most of which are digital natives who, even if they’re not gamers, have dealt with game mechanics in social media and other aspects of their lives.”
  • Yet Rangaswami warns against “putting the lipstick of gamification on the pig of work.” He suggests that if the work is not inherently rewarding, adding a layer of game mechanics is not a quick fix.

Average YouTube Viewer Watches 5 Hours of Videos per Month

  • According to comScore’s May 2011 online video rankings, the average U.S. Internet user watched almost 16 hours of video last month.
  • The report indicates the total U.S. audience engaged in more than 5.6 billion viewing sessions during May, while 83.3 percent viewed online video.
  • Not surprisingly, Google’s YouTube was was the leading video site (again) with 147.2 million unique viewers, and an average of five hours spent per viewer on the site.
  • VEVO followed YouTube with 60.4 million viewers, Yahoo had 55.5 million viewers, and Facebook took the fourth spot with 48.2 million viewers.
  • Hulu had the highest number of video ad impressions at more than 1.3 billion.
  • The average length of online video content was 5.2 minutes.

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