Technology Matters!by Hans Kapadia June 10 2015, 12:58 pm Estimated Reading Time: 10 mins, 44 secs
Technology has been heralded as the tool that will expedite the entire evolutionary process of human beings. Technology has boomed over the last 40-45 and has taken over multiple facets of human life and processes. As Moore?? Law, the law which claimed that the number of transistors on a circuit would double every two years and thus lead to immense gains in computing power, has stayed true; technology has become widespread and has definitely not slowed down. Industry has benefited huge from advancements in technology. The coming of the computer, and especially the personal computer, has revolutionized the way the world thinks and communicates with each other. Advances in technology have led to breakthroughs in aspects that have benefited humanity as a whole in fields such as energy production and conservation, medical sciences, security and transport. Technology even put man on the moon and an unmanned rover on Mars. Information technology too has leapt far beyond the days of pagers and monochromatic mobile phones to today?? ubiquitous smartphones and home appliances that are always connected to the ever growing Internet of Things. Media and Entertainment is embracing the leaps in technology and finding new ways to engage and connect to audiences around the world.
?Google, the undisputed king of the information age recently concluded Google I/O 2015. I/O is a developer conference where Google reaches out to its developer community across the slate of different products that it offers to give developers an update into how these products will evolve and also a look into the other ambitious products that Google has in its massive pipeline. SundarPichai, Senior Vice President of Products for Google gave the keynote address at I/O and wowed the audience with the developments at Google. In relation to media and entertainment, the keynote address had many interesting advancements that Pichai eloquently narrated through his audio-visual narrative. At the center of Google?? foray into media and entertainment lies YouTube, the video streaming service that is the foremost video destination in the world at present. YouTube has a simple yet complex mission of how to get more people to view its platform without hitches and then keep them onto that platform. YouTube content has become so widespread that it is almost impossible to have a longstanding web experience today without running into a YouTube link or embed somewhere on the internet. In 2014, Google acquired a company called DeepMind. This company was focused on creating artificial intelligence using the neural net technology, a technology that is similar to the way in which the human brain works like creating memories, connection and associations based on the multivariate inputs that we receive from the world around us except that in DeepMind?? case, the input is the terabytes and terabytes of consumer data that Google has acquired over the years through its AdSense and Search platforms. DeepMind works on a layering system where data is assimilated and stored in layers to form the connections that lead to insights that the Google team works on. At present DeepMind is over 30 layers deep. In relation to YouTube, Google is leveraging the immense knowledge that DeepMind has accumulated to smartly know what users would want to watch on the video platform. The suggestion engine at YouTube is the secret sauce which leads to hours and hours of video based engagement for its audiences. Serving audiences with the right videos leads to them coming back to the service more and more and thus leads to a greater number of more targeted ads served to the right user, finally creating an ecosystem where the audience, the marketer, the content creator and therefore the platform are all in a win-win scene.
Google, at its I/O in 2014, launched Google Cardboard. Google Cardboard is an inexpensive take on Oculus and other Virtual Reality based players. Made entirely from cardboard and a few magnets, the components can easily be created using the manual designed by Google and a few trinkets sourced from the local hardware store. With a space to keep your smartphone, and a couple of lenses as part of the design, any smartphone can now support VR based video. While this inexpensive tool can lead to early adoption of a paradigm shifting method of engagement, it will take some time to find correct applications for VR besides just entertainment content generation. Well, Google is a company of the future and thus have not waited for time to pass to find the other applications for VR. Therefore Google launched Expeditions, an education initiative using Virtual Reality. As part of the Keynote, Expeditions was showcased as a next gen educational tool. A short video that was made on this product showed a box full of Google Cardboards lying around in classrooms in different parts of the world. At the teacher?? request, students would put on their headsets and be instantly immersed into different worlds. Teaching students about the Roman empire while showing them the sights and sounds of Rome is an experience that every current adult would have hoped to have had instead while getting educated. Hearing the positive testimonials from students, as part of the video, just showed how content, adjusted and created for the latest technologies will definitely change the world in still unknown ways.
Virtual Reality content has come along way in the past few years. With Facebook, Samsung and Google hitting this space hard with alot of money, more and more content (still not that much) is being developed for the various platforms. Google this year announced that they want to open up the world of VR content making to the community of content creators, sticking true to their philosophy of open source. In a tie up with Go Pro, the video camera manufacturer that has taken the world by storm, Google has designed a camera rig capable of capturing 360 degree video. Using its vast computing architecture, Google will be able to process 360 degree video utilizing image stitching and rendering tools to create seamless 360 degree experiences. The plans are to open source this rig in the next few months and lend computing space to a number of content creators from across the world to render the content.
Apart from this another interesting technology unveiled at this year?? I/O was the notifications feature for Google Chrome. Chrome, once again another world leader in its product class from Google, has become the window to the Internet for most of the world. An internet browser traditionally has always been on the incoming side of the human computer interaction paradigm. It has always taken in loads and loads of text without actively giving anything more to the user than rendered pages. Through Google?? new Service worker tool, Chrome now has the functionality to start offering push notifications to its users. Think of these notifications as a more advanced RSS feed with greater functionality. Everyone is used to push notifications as part of smartphone apps, but now Google has ported this operability to its web browser. As a means of engagement, this is greatly required. While Google is trying to bring more people back from native apps, where they lose out on user information, to web apps, notification adoption and serving is paramount to this strategy. For media and entertainment sites, such a tool is great as it doesn?? require users to download apps for their phones to get buzz of the latest action on these sites. And while notifications can be toggled on and off based on the user?? decision, it leaves the privacy and choice control in the hand of the users. Google put a lot of emphasis on the different form factors (a smart way of saying different devices) available in today?? market. ServiceWorker is a tool that can differentiate between different form factors and thus knows which notifications to serve you based on the device you are using. This is another step forward in Google?? understanding of its user base.
Another product that has taken the world by storm is Google?? Chromecast. The $35 dollar device is a HDMI based internet device that can make any HDMI enabled television connected to the Internet. Once connected to a TV, the Chromecast can be controlled using a web browser or smartphone app. This can now stream any internet based content directly to your TV using Google?? cloud architecture. While Chromecast is a device that has been there for a long time, the adoption rate and the number of apps that support this functionality have grown immensely over the past year. SundarPichai stated that the cast button on supported apps has been clicked more than 1.5 billion times in the last year alone. From a media and entertainment perspective, this is great. As more and more people start cutting their cable connections because of the heavy onset of internet based video, their experiences do not have to be compromised, as with the simple touch of the cast button they can view OTT content on their TV Sets.
?While Google has taken tremendous steps in ramping up technology based innovations, there have been a lot of other technologies that are changing things up. One technology that is currently taking the world by storm is Live Streaming. Periscope and Meerkat are two apps that have been launched recently. These apps enable their users to live stream content directly from their smartphone cameras. As traditional TV content has become a delayed viewing experience, where one can watch and engage at their own pace, live events are where the action is. Meerkat and Periscope, as well as Snapchat to an extent, is getting in on this action. While broadcasting one?? experiences real time is based on the user?? choice of documenting their lives, there has been a lot of criticism that these apps have faced. When Game of Thrones Season 5 episode 1 was released, there were multiple live streams of the content taking place on these apps. HBO threatened to take these apps to court. During the Mayweather-Pacquiaobout, similar things happened. On the contrary, during the recent riots in Baltimore, civilians used these live streaming facilities to show the world in real time the police brutality that they were being subjected to. While some see it as a tool for mass piracy, some see it as a tool for social justice. Only time will tell how these tools are used in the future.
At a more larger scale, and as seen with the example of YouTube, online content and especially video content is growing. During the 2015 Upfronts (a two week period in May where TV companies release their future programming slate for Madison Avenue marketers and ad execs and sell their ad inventory to them), measurement and user data was the key term. Internet content companies had a similar exhibition for ad execs a couple of weeks earlier, called New Fronts, and their main selling point was that they have the data, thanks to their internet based platforms. In search of this user data and also changing pattern in content viewing, TV networks are now offering more and more of their services online. HBO launched HBO Now, a $15 a month OTT service. As of yesterday (3rd June), premium cable channel Showtime from the CBS stable revealed its plan for The Eye, a $11 a month streaming service fro Showtime Shows. The unique part of this announcement was that it would only be given to users that had a broadband connection. This bundling of broadband and OTT content is a new way in which content companies are trying to keep users to stay with their cable partners. As more and more people in the US start dropping their cable subscriptions for internet content, Cable companies are realizing that they need to start swapping out their TV subscriptions with Internet subscriptions. Laying a cable infrastructure takes a lot of money and in the long run to service these operational costs, cable companies have to adapt to offer new cable based services if the old offering are becoming stale. There have been large consolidations in the Cable industry in the US as recently Charter took over Time Warner Cable to become the second largest cable provider in the country after Comcast. Telecom service providers are also seeing some disruption, as more and more bandwidth on telecom frequencies is being used to stream internet based video and content. Thus Telecom companies are buying content creation companies (networks and studios). Verizon recently bought AOL for $4.4 Billion in the US. In India, Reliance Jio, just ahead of its big 4G launch in India have already acquired TV18 Network. In other deals, there are rumours that T Mobile might merge with Dish Network, the satellite based TV provider.
As Technology evolves, disruption emerges and innovation is sparked in a world where something as recent as yesterday is considered stale. To evolve the species, and take us forward, Technology matters!