July 1, 2011

2011 SID Display Week

The Society for Information Display (SID) Display Week is the foremost exhibition of emerging display technologies. It was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center May 16-21, 2011.
Some Key Emerging Technology Trends at SID 2011:
  • Further development in glass-free 3D (auto-stereo)
  • Dual sided, super thin LCD
  • Transparent displays
Overall, Samsung and Toshiba continue to drive broad-based emerging display technologies for consumer applications.

May 1, 2011

NAB 2011, Sony Press Conference

At the Sony press conference, we were treated to a live broadcast in 3D HD of the Masters golf tournament. The producers/directors of these sporting events are clearly becoming skilled at harnessing the 3D technology to full effect. They had camera angles from right at green’s edge, providing an almost hyper-real depth of field from the golfer’s POV. It was quite impressive.

Sony’s biggest technology unveiling, and one of the most talked about of the show, is their F65 CineAlta 4K resolution professional video camera. Veteran Hollywood filmmaker Curtiss Clark (here with Alec Shapiro, SR VP Sony Pro Solutions) and other industry professionals are proclaiming that this camera shoots images SUPERIOR to film. That goal has been the Holy Grail of video image capture for decades. It looks like its been achieved once and for all.

NAB 2011 - James Cameron Keynote

James Cameron, alongside his longtime technology partner Vince Pace, gave the NAB keynote. This was rather unusual, as the NAB keynote is usually given by a studio/broadcast CEO, or a Washington mover such as the FCC Chairman. Cameron is evangelizing about helping content producers realize 3D’s full potential as a creative and powerful storytelling medium. He also announced the founding of his new company Cameron-Pace in Burbank, which is a technology and production services company, who’s “goal is to banish all the perceived and actual barriers to entry that are currently holding back producers, studios and networks from embracing their 3D future.”

Cameron gave a message during the CES 2009 Panasonic press conference in support of the launch of their new 3D home video systems. No one there could imagine that the film he was working on, Avatar, would turn out to be the record breaking blockbuster of all time. So little more than two years later, the entire industry is now paying close attention to what Cameron has to say and the moves he's making.

NAB 2011 Highlights

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), held yearly in Las Vegas, is anything but just about broadcasting. It is exhibits and conferences on everything to do with media … film, video, internet, you name it. I’ve attended almost every year since the mid-80’s, and have seen industry sea changes year after year.
As I peered out over the expanse of one of the several show floors, I recalled how time and again the industry players can quickly shift places. I remember at an NAB in the late 1980's seeing a tiny booth of an unknown startup company showing a Macintosh-based non-linear editing system. Within a few minutes of seeing what the system could do, I predicted that this was the future of video editing. Well, that company was Avid, and it did indeed portend the future of video post production. Avid has, for the past several years, had one of the largest exhibits at NAB, and this year was no exception. At the time in the late 1980’s when I first discovered Avid, Abekas was one of the big player at the show, with their leading edge disk-based digital compositing/effects systems. Well, some twenty years later they’re back to being an unknown, with a tiny booth and a single product offering. Funny how the industry-wide “gales of change” are constantly shifting the landscape.

NAB 2011 - Key Issues:

  • 3D production process (James Cameron Keynote).
  • Transmedia: ubiquity, interoperability of content across all platforms/devices.
  • "Content in the Cloud"
  • Auto Stereoscopic content and technology

April 1, 2011

How Concerned Should We Be about P2P File Sharing?

Presented at 2011 NAB "Content in the Cloud" conference
by Tom Mulally, Numagic Consulting

Despite the recording industry’s past success in beating-back early peer-to-peer (P2P) music file sharing site Napster, P2P file sharing continues to proliferate. But now the content being shared is feature films and television programs. Technology has matured to enable consumers to share large video files quickly and with minimal effort.
Enablers include:
• Increasing Internet bandwidth to the home
• Home PCs functioning as media servers
• Lower priced, higher capacity storage
• Free, easy to use torrent applications
• Technically proficient “seeders” of pirated content
• Improved video codecs

However there are additional factors that are perhaps more disconcerting. Younger consumers are increasingly ambivalent about respecting copyrights. Experts point to a growing disregard for intangible property by younger consumers. A “bits are free” mentality may now be the norm. Are younger consumers becoming acculturated to expecting paid content to be free?
According to a CBS News poll, nearly 70 percent of 18 to 29 year olds thought file sharing was acceptable in some circumstances and 58 percent of all Americans who followed the file sharing issue considered it acceptable in at least some circumstances.[1]
To study current P2P activity, torrents of the recently released feature film Limitless were documented. The first of over a dozen files of the film was posted within 48 hours of its opening day on Friday March 18, 2011. Though it is a “camera copy,” the image and sound quality of the 1.3GB file is acceptable for viewing on a desktop-sized display.
The graph below shows the amount of Limitless copies leeched (downloaded) between March 20 -30. The cumulative total of file shares by March 30 was: 223,375.

1. “Young Say File Sharing OK.” CBS News, Bootie Cosgrove-Mather, 2003-09-18

March 7, 2011

Key Trend: Exponential Growth of Technology

By Tom Mulally, March 7, 2011

The exponential growth of technology today is counter-intuitive to our human cognition. We are wired to think linearly. We intuit our world in equalized steps, progressing through daily challenges and solving problems in a linear time domain by moving in predictable steps from Point A, to Point B, and then to our ultimate destination at Point C. Large, complex projects typically progress linearly through the time constrained, well defined phases of Concept Design, Schematic Design, Production, and Implementation. This way of thinking and problem solving has worked for us throughout history.

However exponential technological growth breaks with this paradigm. The clock speed of change is accelerating faster than evolution has wired us to comprehend. We are accustomed to a simple 10-step process progressing in even measures of 1,2,3,4, eventually arriving at 10. However in an exponential growth curve, ten steps progress exponentially: 1,2,4,8,16,32,64, eventually arriving at 512 after ten steps. Extend this sequence out further, and by step thirty we are at over a billion.

This is the growth trajectory technology has followed since our earliest use of technology (sharpened stones) more than 1 million years ago. The rate of change was slow and even at first. We harnessed fire, improved our stone tools, then created and assembled deadly hunting devices 40,000 years ago. A sharp acceleration of change started with the introduction of the wheel, and especially writing approximately 5000 years ago. Technology has followed an increasingly sharp upward slope ever since.

In the past 500 years the curve entered the sharper upward slope. Mechanical computing devices were introduced approximately 150 years ago (Babbage’s Differential Engine design). A half-century later the U.S. census was processed by machines. Another fifty years to the first electronic computers. Since then Moore’s Law has been in effect with processing power doubling approximately every eighteen months. Moore's law follows a more linear trajectory; however within the context of over a million years of technological change it's a point on the exponential curve. What’s most exciting (or disturbing depending on your perspective) is that we are just now entering the part of the exponential growth curve that is steep and accelerated.

Increasingly accelerated exponential growth is further evident in how, in little more than a decade the world wide web has proliferated. Or how in a matter of few years since its introduction, web-based social networking has hundreds of millions of users. Or how in a matter of days a new iPhone app is being used productively by tens of thousands. This exponential growth and proliferation of technologies, services and knowledge contradicts our conventional, linear mode of thinking. It is imperative to get our heads around this paradigm shift and plan accordingly.

February 17, 2011

When AR Gets Serious

Tom Mulally, February 17, 2011

As technology continues it’s exponential trajectory of innovation, it is inevitable that machines will gradually integrate with our bodies. For example, inventor/futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that in thirty-to-forty years we will have nanobots in our bloodstream. In regards to Augmented Reality (AR), it will first become practicable when it can provide hands-free augmentation to our vision. First generations of AR have existed for decades in HMDs (head mounted displays) for military and specialty applications. Meanwhile, attempts at consumer AR applications have been, for the most part, novelties. The surface has barely been scratched on the potential for ubiquitous, context-aware personal mobile technology.

Lightweight flexible LCD glasses (not goggles) will provide the visual interface for AR. Next generation glasses, coupled with gesture and voice control will enable widespread implementation of AR-like technologies (though they won’t be called AR). "Situational Enhancement" will be achieved through real time inferencing. Data, images, and aural cues (a virtual "voice in your head" that YOU control) will provide ongoing assistance in communicating and performing tasks.

The glasses will also provide a convenient platform for our mobile device hardware, when it is miniaturized to a form factor of the glasses frame. We’ll be wearing them comfortably all the time, until systems can eventually be integrated into our bodies. Since the glasses are frequently exposed to light, future generations of light-gathering technology can provide the power, augmented by bio-electric charges from our bodies when in darkened spaces. The lenses will automatically respond and resolve to external conditions on a pixel-by-pixel basis, while the fully context aware technology in the frames continually gathers visual, audio, and position/environmental data and processes/integrates it via continuous web connectivity. The overlaid imagery will need to be served at millisecond display/refresh rates. These systems will become as comfortable, and necessary as corrective lenses and hearing aids currently are to the visually and hearing impaired.