On Wednesday 17th January, over 100 media executives attended our latest Technology Pathfinders Forum – exploring the top media technology priorities for 2018 and beyond.
Our aim was to cut through the hype and buzzwords that inevitably surround emergent technologies and asses how new innovations will change the way we create, distribute and consume video content in the future.
Everyone’s been talking about AI, Voice, VR and the cloud – for years in some cases – but do we need to be? What has to be front of mind for progressive media executives in 2018 and what can be safely dismissed (like 3D TV)?
We were hugely grateful to have four expert panellists from across the media value chain to share their views and guide our discussion:
- Susie Buckridge – Director of Product and Business Development – YouView
- Sinead Greenaway – Chief Technology and Operations Officer – UKTV
- Sylvain Thevenot – Managing Director – Netgem
- Tom Griffiths – Director of Broadcast and Distribution Technology – ITV
The event was moderated by Nick Thomas and John Cobban, Associate Director and Consultant at MTM respectively.
2017 was the year Amazon’s Alexa dominated, and 2018 is shaping up to be another year of Artificial Intelligence (AI). While many believe that the line between clever analytics and AI is frequently blurred, there was agreement AI and Machine Learning will deliver huge benefits to the industry over time. Automation is going to reduce the need for human input in many areas of the value chain, freeing up broadcast engineers to do more exciting, innovative work, while viewers can expect content recommendations to become ever more precise and personalised:
“Reading the papers today, you’d think the robots were about to take over. It’s been massively hyped. I see a lot of potential, but we need more time to get up to higher levels of accuracy before we’ll unlock the true value”
Many of us will have received voice assistants this Christmas and many of us will have asked them to play songs, tell us jokes and chat about the weather – but what’s the next stage of voice interaction? All agreed that beyond shouting “pause” at your TV, voice really starts to get exciting when paired with AI. Clever voice assistants will unlock new ways to interact with content, and media companies and audiences alike will have to adapt to changing discovery mechanisms.
“The big question for me is how voice and visual will work together? You can ask Alexa to play you something, but how will it help you find things? That’s the next stage and at the moment it’s a bit of an unknown”
Perhaps the most divisive technology discussed by the panel was Virtual Reality – with mixed views on its potential. While engaging, donning a VR headset is an isolating experience, more suited to gaming than family viewing. It is expensive too. More promising, however, seems Augmented Reality (AR) – which can engage viewers without taking them away from the shared viewing experience, and does not need specially designed hardware. For both technologies, however, the verdict is still out on whether a compelling commercial case can be made:
“Sure, VR is great if you’ve got some cash to spend on a headset but it’s isolating and, outside of gaming, I don’t see it becoming mainstream. I think AR is the more exciting creative and commercial opportunity. Everyone in this room has an AR device in their pocket right now”
Audience and panel alike agreed that cloud should not feature on our list of trends to explore in 2018 – there is no longer any debate that it is a fact of life in the media technology space. The only remaining question is which areas of the value chain won’t be completely revolutionised by the application of cloud based computing power and storage in coming years? For example, as TVs become ever more streamlined, why can’t that bulky set top box with internal storage be slimmed down too?
“This isn’t a tech trend anymore, it’s the new normal and it’s going to become increasingly prevalent across the entire value chain. We no longer have to worry about scalability any more, which gives us a lot more freedom to dive into new things quickly”