Augmented Reality disrupts Television

Television is old. Around 70 years ago television began to become mainstream and more commonly found in many households, but very little changed with the concept until more recently. We have kept the same paradigm of watching something behind a screen in a very passive way.

It is very easy to imagine that Augmented Reality will make televisions a museum artefact. If we can have a virtual screen wherever we want with the size that we want, why would we need to have a real one? We then won’t be limited to this rectangular flat shape anymore and will create new innovative storytelling techniques. Apple, Google and Facebook, are leading this revolution, and sooner than later, we are going to have socially-acceptable AR glasses and virtual reality glasses that will let us see through lenses, mixing virtual and real worlds.

“You want to watch TV? We could put a digital TV on that wall and instead of being a piece of hardware, it’s a $1 app, instead of a $500 piece of equipment.”
— Mark Zuckerberg

Ultimately, we imagine television being completely holographic, like in all these science fiction movies. Until we get there, we can start taking the necessary steps in this direction, creating mixed experiences with Television and Augmented Reality, what we call Augmented Television.

Augmented Television is a state where the TV gets enhanced by augmented reality experiences, in a way where we blur the glass frontier between the content and us.

The technology is ready for Augmented Television, are we?

We don’t need to wait for fancy AR glasses to interact with AR experiences, we can do it today in our smartphones and tablets. This part is solved by the AR frameworks created by Apple and Google. They just require a regular smartphone or tablet to be able to use AR. There are literally billions of devices, already in our hands, compatible with AR today.

Video production needs a twist. We need the development of a unique video format native for AR. Some technology is already capable of recording actors and scenes in three dimensions, and I don’t mean two stereoscopic images put together to simulate 3D images in our brains, I mean pure 3D video recordings. We call this technology today holographic video or volumetric video.

Holographic video

Some companies are developing this capability, like Microsoft with its Mixed Reality Capture Studios. They are the pioneers in professional holographic production, but today they require multiple cameras and many hours of post-processing. Jaunt, a company known for their VR productions, is focusing now in AR and have recently developed a production set that works with only 6 cameras and can broadcast holograms live. Mimesys, a small French-Belgium startup, has put it down to 2 cameras. As technology progresses, we expect future mobile phones to be able to record a simplified version of AR video but at least today we have professional sets where we can record our video holograms to integrate them into our AR experiences.

Which are the best use cases for Augmented Television?

What’s the essence of a news program today? Someone explaining to you what happened somewhere else during the day. Why would you need to have a whole production set in the background of the news when you could just have the news presenter sitting at your kitchen table with you while you eat your breakfast.

Use cases like this one will appear and surprise the audience as the technology reaches maturity. At Accedo, we have prepared a selection of concepts for Augmented Television that we hope will spark the imagination of our customers and the industry today.

Augmented Television for Sport

At Accedo, when we started thinking about applications of augmented reality, we identified the most obvious use case being a second screen application for sports. I have previously written about the high value of second screen applications for sports but AR brings it to a whole new level. Even though each sport has its own particularities, all of them can have an enhanced experience by making use of different cameras, statistics, maps etc.

Follow the race having the context of a three-dimensional map on your coffee table.

We created a second experience application to follow a cycling race using AR. While watching the regular broadcast on TV, we interact with the map of the race, knowing the position of the different participants, having extra layers of information such as the slope level or even giving access to the cameras in their exact position on the map, even when they are moving like helicopters or motorbikes. The attention gathered and the intuitiveness of the experience make a compelling argument that this is the model to follow for interactive television.

Accedo’s concept on how to integrate Augmented Reality with a television broadcast.

We took the idea from sports and created a few more concepts across the main content areas of television.

Augmented Television for documentaries

I expect documentaries and education to drive this new technology, synching the regular video with, for example, 3D models of the objects or places showcased on TV. The other day I was watching a fantastic documentary about the ecosystem of a forest and I would have loved to see a model of the roots of a tree in my living room to understand its full complexity or see the microscopic insects become real. For example, if we are watching a documentary about sea animals, the moment when they talk about whales, there will be an interactive whale floating in our living room. When the documentary changes the whale for a dolphin, the AR experience will synchronise and show the audience a dolphin.

The AR experiences can also be asymmetric, letting viewers dig down on the materials whenever they want.

The level of interactivity and detail will vary depending on the type of documentary. For a documentary about the pyramids, we might want to automatically pause the video to give the viewer time to explore the inside. The value of this type of AR experiences for education and learning is undeniable.

Augmented Television for kids

Frankly, children’s television is almost halfway there. How many times have you seen a child talking to the TV? With their limitless imagination, every fairy toy can have a life and its own personality. Imagine for a second the cartoon characters asking the kids to play with an augmented reality toy. Or see a part of the story happening inside the screen while a character in your living room is replying back. This world of magic fantasy is not that far away.

Dale will be messing around in your living room and still interacting with the TV characters

The power of advertising in AR

AR and Advertising fit together like peanut butter and jelly. Never before have we had the opportunity to see and evaluate what we are considering to buy with such a degree of realism as now using Ikea or Amazon AR applications. We imagine our augmented TV application linked to the ads that you are watching on television. When you see an advertisement with an AR experience, this goes directly to our “history list”, letting you interact with the product live or doing it later. Needless to say, it opens a new channel for monetization for broadcasters as the value of advertising where you interact with the product is much higher than the classic eyeballs advertising hit.

Don’t you want to try these exclusive shoes?

What’s next?

Until we reach a future where a big part of the television content is holographic, we expect to have a fruitful present with augmented reality experiences combined with television. This will roll out slowly at the beginning, as this standard becomes a commodity, but once the major tech brands release their AR glasses, the content will grow exponentially and we will be living in a new era.

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