In a recent column I wrote for Streaming Media Magazine, I asked what had happened to the future of interactive, immersive video. It had seemed to me that we had given up the idea of letting people engage interactively with online video for just replicating the television experience.
Then I visited IBC and came across the BBC Research and Development team where I saw their Venue Explorer.
The Venue Explorer, as they describe it, is “a prototype system that provides a personalized and interactive way of experiencing a large event. A web application lets viewers explore an ultra-high-definition panoramic video, giving them the same freedom to look around that someone sitting in the best seat in the audience would have. Data overlays provide additional information about the scene, and the audio can be automatically re-mixed to suit the selected view.”
Below is a great walk-through video that explains what the project is and how the BBC are using it to create more interactive, immersive video experiences.
But the truly revolutionary work that is happening with this project isn’t just about the interactivity that Venue Explorer promotes. It’s about how the BBC are approaching video—as objects. From the project website,
Venue Explorer is an example of one way in which broadcasting could move towards what is known as an object-based approach: current TV systems send the same audio and video to everyone, mixed by the broadcaster. In this system, the content is divided into separate ‘objects’: the video is divided up into tiles, the audio is sent as a number of separate streams relating to particular picture areas, and overlay data is sent separately, with information about the place in the image it relates to, and what kind of data it is (results, schedule, etc). The user’s application assembles these objects according to the view selected by the user.
By re-imagining video as an intertwined system of objects, the BBC is able to decouple the traditional video and audio elements so that they can be manipulated (or interacted with) individually thereby enabling the Venue Explorer experience.
Has the BBC unlocked the future of television? Although right now their object-based approach to video requires a specialized web application to view, it’s not a very difficult proposition to imagine all players supporting video “objects” (rather than just singular video streams) in the future. Perhaps it's twenty to thirty years past the immediate horizon, but I have no doubt that Venue Explorer is showing us the future of video consumption.
 This is taken from the BBC Research and Development brochure created for IBC.