People are increasingly interested in immersive experiences at home and at work. To deliver this new category of bandwidth-intensive traffic, network service providers (NSPs) are actively restructuring and shaping their networks, equipment, services, and business models. .
To learn more about the role of NSPs in delivering immersive experiences to the home, we caught up with Danny Vossen, Director of Strategy, Business Development and Marketing for Connected Home at Technicolor. Vossen is responsible for developing strategies that help cable, satellite and telco operators bring virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) to the home.
Vossen: As you rightfully point out, these experiences like VR, AR, and MR are bandwidth-intensive. And operators that have got high-bandwidth access networks may have an opportunity to use a growing set of immersive services to actually re-value their broadband infrastructure and content delivery capabilities. Being able to create demand for such higher bandwidth services clearly will enhance the business case for network modernization and will bring a way to increase the relevance in the home and the ability to reconnect to the end users with a new set of compelling services.
Today, operators are already looking to utilize their customer base and hardware footprint in the home for the delivery of immersive experiences. Some of them do that by starting with 360-degree content, and we at Technicolor believe that 360-degree video is just the starting point of that.
Vossen: It might altogether be some new kind of device that doesn’t yet exist. It all depends on how far they want to go in delivering these immersive experiences. Offering, for example, 360-degree videos, this is already supported by Technicolor devices today.
If however you want to move towards more interactivity, support high-end playback devices like connected head-mounted displays (HMDs), or to customize the experience in the home for individuals, then you will be looking at a completely different kind of CPE. Another consideration: if we want to allow the user to involve other people in his circle to have a shared kind of immersive experience. This will have a huge impact on the CPE at hand.
Today, we at Technicolor would support the social aspect of VR experiences – creating the ability of sharing them with family members. But we can go a lot further in the social and sharing dimension – something I believe is very important in delivering and satisfying the customer experience.
And finally, for service providers, there is actually value in providing and managing that in-home experience, as well as allowing that sharing to be mobile and across the wider area…which also will have some implications on how the device will have to be designed to perform in the home and on the wide area network.
Vossen: We think it goes way beyond 360-degree video. I think entertainment content combined with gaming elements that can be viewed and shared with multiple people over multiple different types of playback devices presents interesting opportunities.
Think, for example, about educational content for K-12 education all the way to executive education to corporate training programs, which can be offered for example in a more immersive, a more engaging way by bringing people from different locations together by using technologies like AR and VR. Yet another example would be for telework, as these digital nomads want to connect and collaborate with business partners by leveraging immersive telepresence and new collaboration tools.
And maybe just last one to throw in – it could also be a new way for brands to connect with target audiences in the home and deliver maybe less intrusive marketing campaigns using these immersive technologies. I think the list is endless and will for sure expand along the way. There are very many use cases which we cannot even imagine today.
Vossen: On the technology side, think about the challenges that are there. Clearly the network infrastructure and the home devices need to adapt. In my view, there are three big challenges. One is bandwidth, because immersive content could go all the way from 360-degree video, which requires relatively low bandwidth, to 3D mesh technologies which are currently used in the gaming industry and have the potential to be very high bandwidth.
Another is the timing. Will this immersive content be consumed off-line and on-demand? Or will this increasingly be more like real-time, like live sports events? And this will leave an impact on the bandwidth and also on the memory capacity in the network and in the devices in the home.
A third – and I think this is a very important point – is interactivity. How do we want the user to interact with the content? Again, for example 360-degree video is a very laidback and non-interactive viewing experience. But think about high interactivity such as telepresence. That could have a huge impact on the interactivity and the latency. With this in mind, operators need to invest and optimize their infrastructure.
There are other capabilities as well. NSPs that have content creation arms will obviously have some kind of advantage because the need for content is still there. You can have a wonderful device in the home but if you don’t have the content to go with that, it doesn’t work.
On the business model side, I think new things need to be worked out, especially if we think of education and telework use cases. Completely new monetization models may need to be considered, and partnerships to get access to these kinds of services and content and to get them to market may have to be evaluated as well. So there are quite some challenges still that need to be figured out.
Vossen: One thing, very much at the core of what the service providers are doing, is creating higher-bandwidth networks — both fixed and mobile — combined with improved in home Wi-Fi performance.
We are also seeing better and less expensive HMDs. Their costs are coming down. Also, the source device specifications will become less stringent, and this will drive down the cost of these technologies and increase the pool of customers. What we are also actively working on at Technicolor is the development of standards to stream immersive content efficiently over existing broadband networks. Although there are still quite some challenges when we are looking at more advanced services and use cases, we will definitely get there.
Finally, we are seeing great strides in the knowledge and experience of how to create immersive content with new tools, and how to optimize the content workflow and production workflow that will further drive down the cost of content creation and make more content available. So if you sum these things up, they will, I think, deliver a fertile breeding ground for getting these services into the market by the NSPs.
Vossen: Within the connected home’s capabilities, developing and building high-end CPE is a big opportunity. Combine this with our production services team’s expertise of capturing and producing immersive VR content and the knowledge of how to encode, compress, transport and decode these types of content. Which is, mind you, not trivial in the case of VR and AR…and you get a complete understanding of Technicolor’s value creation chain for immersive experiences.
I think this collective experience and this creative know-how allows us to enter into meaningful and impactful discussions with service providers and help them deliver on this huge vision that we all want to carry along.Show less