Just before heading to Las Vegas for NAB 2016, I blogged about what technologies I wanted to check out on the show floor. Everything promised by the pre-show promotion in terms of number of attendees, exhibitors, and educational sessions looked spot on to me. It’s overwhelming, and I’m glad I prepared a plan. After three days of walking 5+ miles per day through the halls in between other attendance obligations, here’s some of what I saw on the show floor.
Aerial Robotics and Drone Pavilion
Camera-carrying drones were displayed ubiquitously in booths in the three exhibit halls, in all manner of payload carrying capabilities. High end rigs integrated sophisticated redundant GPS navigation with programmability of the flight paths, and an auto “return to base” function.
The pavilion had an enclosed “flying cage” demonstrating drones in action, and showing how broadcasters can best deploy aerial cameras to enhance the viewing options for their audience.
Virtual and Augmented Reality Pavilion
This pavilion was fantastic for anyone who has not had the chance to try virtual reality headsets. There were three demonstrations available to view: a video game, a tennis match, and a live VR broadcast of a music concert. I went into the pavilion with the mindset that VR was mainly for video game playing. I left with a change of heart.
The above photo is in the Nokia booth in the pavilion, where attendees could experience the OZO headset. This and all the other demos included earphones providing synchronized audio tracks, contributing to the immersive experience. The most dramatic example of how sound enhances the experience was the concert live VR broadcast. Outside the exhibit hall was a stage setup with a band. VR cameras were placed about the stage to broadcast a 360 degree view of the musicians. My resultant VR view placed me on the stage in the midst of the players. As I rotated my head from facing the drummer to having him at my back, the percussion was perceived by me to be coming from in front of me, and then around behind me, exactly as it would if I was physically on the stage. The tennis game provided a demo that let me select among several cameras placed around the court. I could select a viewing angle by eye movement to manipulate an on screen curser. This ability will be a popular feature in sports VR viewing. And then there is the video game, where I was plopped right into a game. There was a lot of motion in this demo in all axes, and at first I felt a bit of vertigo, which disappeared after I closed my eyes for a couple of seconds, and never returned.
VR viewing technology is advancing very fast, but the elephant in the viewer is the screen resolution of the smart phones used in the headsets as displays. In all of the demos, the images were dominated by perceived large pixel sizes, and blurriness of the image. But all three demos were fun to watch, and gave me an appreciation for virtual reality possibilities for enhancing many viewing use cases. Once the display issue is addressed, VR will find its way into so many applications. I can’t wait to be able to check out vacation destinations via a VR video from home.
4K TV, 8K TV, and Really Big TV
4K broadcasting is gaining traction with sporting events, and some OTT services are making movie content available in 4K and HDR. Besides checking out the latest TVs, I got a good sense of 4K broadcasting infrastructure – cameras, production equipment, network services, etc. Everywhere I looked in any hall, 4K signage banners and broadcasting equipment was displayed and demonstrated. I expected that.
What I didn’t expect was the extent of 8K TV demonstrations. Several were on display together. I have to say that while 4K delivers a great picture, it doesn’t have the WOW factor of 8K. In the 8K presentation theater, the video shown was simply stunning. There was an 8K roadmap near the TVs showing Japan planning broadcasting of the 2020 Olympics in 8K. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out, with 8K starting to come out just as 4K is in the early phase of ramp up.
Also unexpected was the Sony 21 foot (yes, that is correct) UHD TV. No photo can do it justice, but I can say it is quite amazing, with really high resolution and very bright colors. If money were no object, this would make the heart of the ultimate home theater.
Market-ready startups beginning to sell their new solutions, and ready to form partnerships, were showcased in the SPROCKIT area. Attendees got a first look at a great variety of new products and services, including comprehensive OTT platforms, social media savy content management systems, and new OTT services. One in particular I want to call out is KlowdTV, which streams linear TV broadcasts. They offer Micro-bundles of channels to consumers. Seems like a boon to chord shavers.
As promised in my pre-show blog, I made the time to check out these and other technology areas at NAB. This only worked out because I planned in advance. There was just so much to see and absorb, so I wanted to focus this blog on the technologies mentioned in my blog before the show. NAB is too big to imagine until you experience one of these events. Watch for future blogs on 4K market traction, and, yes, 8K as well.