Artificial intelligence, virtual reality and high dynamic range featured strongly at IBC 2017 in mid-September.
At a London Centre event, held in association with the Institution of Engineering and Technology, a panel of experts picked through the highlights of the annual Amsterdam media and technology convention.
These even included – at the stranger end of the spectrum – a remote control that could identify its handler.
There were fewer “buzz words”, reckoned Sinead Greenaway, UKTV’s chief technology and operations officer. In the past, she said, it had been easy to say it was “the year of 4K or 3D” at IBC.
“It was much more evenly spread in terms of the subject matter,” she added, which made IBC “less faddy – it felt like it had some substance”.
Greenaway was less pleased at UKTV being seen as a “traditional broadcaster” at IBC, in contrast to the “super digitals” such as Amazon, Netflix and Facebook. “The vendor community don’t really understand the complexity of what we broadcast. Our business has an OTT [over-the-top] service, supplies a lot of complex platform VoD [video on demand] and has a thriving linear business,” she said.
Penny Westlake, European director of Interra Systems, which provides software-based quality control systems for the media industry, agreed that no one subject dominated but said that machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) come to the fore over the course of IBC.
“I think it’s going to be a long time before we see full AI [in TV]. It does compose music but there will always be a role for the human dimension because, ultimately, content is produced by humans for humans. AI, by definition, is a different sort of intelligence,” she said.
Nick Lodge who executive produced the advances in technology sessions at IBC, revealed that AI accounted for 10% to 12% of the submissions he received to make a presentation at the convention.
Lodge was hugely impressed by the use of AI at Brazilian TV network Globo, which he said is “revolutionising the way they operate their business.”
Globo uses AI, for example, to mine public records, which the company says takes seconds, compared to a week’s work for a journalist using traditional methods.
As a result, Lodge said, the broadcaster is cutting journalists and increasing the number of IT people it employs.
It also harnesses AI to analyse data to produce personalised programme recommendations, which Globo claims has led to a 30% increase in views.
Lodge highlighted the work of Japanese broadcaster NHK, which demonstrated at IBC a commentary of a tennis match, produced “synthetically and driven entirely by data gathered using AI. It was simply amazing – you would not know it was produced without human intervention. It didn’t sound like a robot.”
Virtual reality was another popular technology. “I don’t think it’s going to be mass market, but it’s going to live alongside other things,” said Lodge.
“I think there is interest in bringing together social media and VR so we can meet our friends in virtual space,” he added
The consultant also revealed that an Austrian study had successfully tested a “[TV] remote control that could tell in two seconds who you are by the way you pick it up” using soft biometrics.
Digital executive producer Muki Kulhan, who ran the social media element of the “What Caught My Eye” sessions at IBC, said that she felt like a “big kid in a candy store” at the convention.
New technology to enable producers and broadcasters to protect their programmes grabbed her attention: “There were a lot of things that impressed me to help you slay pirates quickly and efficiently.”
Kulhan was also impressed by a new broadcast mobile journalism app from City Producer, released at IBC, which makes it easier to shoot, edit and post good-quality video from a smartphone on to social media within minutes.
High dynamic range (HDR), argued Westlake, “came of age at this show. We’re starting to see reasonably priced consumer sets and it really does make a difference [in quality] to the consumer.
“It’s going to give people a few more creative possibilities at the production end when they’re shooting and also, for the home experience, particularly on a big screen in the living room, people are going to start to notice if they don’t have it.”
“IBC Review 2017” was held at the IET in central London on 11 October. It was chaired by journalist Kate Bulkley and produced by Terry Marsh.