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It’s Not TV, It’s a TV App

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GUEST EDITORIAL BY SHELLY PALMER

How soon will TV transform from wall-mounted 4K flat-screens to a 99-cent app in a VR/AR App Store?

That’s a question few will ponder this week as the National Association of Broadcasters gathers in Las Vegas for the NAB Show 2016. TV has both defined and enlarged mass communication for more than a half-century. No one in their right mind would suggest that big-screen TVs might go away – ever!Shelly Palmer

Well, no one ever said I was in my right mind. I’m not “liquored up” on the scatter market, and TV sales in an election year/Olympic year are cyclical. Yes, people are making real money right now and the TV business (from an advertiser sales perspective) is doing great. But a few technological breakthroughs have caught my attention in the past few weeks, and they’re worth a discussion.

VR and AR at F8

VR (Virtual Reality) is for gamers, education, sports and adult entertainment (which has led the transformation of video technology as far back as anyone can remember). AR (Augmented Reality), a different technology which some say is more difficult to work with, is for navigating and augmenting experiences in the real world. Last week at F8, the Facebook team told us what we already knew: big headsets will evolve into a pair of glasses as soon as technologically possible. The question is, when?

AI and Machine Learning

AlphaGo recently beat 9-dan Go Master Lee Sedol 4 games to 1, demonstrating a system of Deep Learning and Reinforcement Learning algorithms that should have gotten everyone’s attention. Computers that can pattern match at or near human capabilities (or closely enough to do the jobs we are asking them to do) are a gigantic stepping-stone toward the seamless Natural Language Processing (NLP), Image Recognition and spatial navigation required to make VR and AR awesome. These fields of data-scientific research are progressing at an exponential rate. Computers are going to have capabilities required to bring us very believable virtual and augmented worlds. The question is, when?

We Talk to Things and They Talk Back

Amazon Echo, Siri, OK Google, Cortana, my car and a bunch of other “things” in my life now understand me and are in training to talk back in useful ways. “Alexa temperature” is an easy one. “Alexa, what’s my schedule for tomorrow?” It responds by reading my calendar. “Alexa, remind me about lunch 15 minutes in advance.” I don’t need to tell it why I want to be reminded – it doesn’t care; it just does what it’s told. “Alexa, play Mozart.” If you’re a prime member, try it. It’s super fun. Talking to things, which is facilitated by advanced AI and Machine Learning tools, is an important step toward TV as an app. You won’t have to type your searches; you’ll just say what you want. The question is, when?

TV Apps

Chatbots Are the Future

Why open an app to do something when you can just send a quick txt message and accomplish your goal? Dumb chatbots let you send a simple txt message to order a pizza, buy movie tickets, book a flight, schedule an appointment, set a reminder, etc. Smart chatbots are going to change everything. By adding AI and machine learning systems behind the scenes, the chatbots will become interfaces into a world of capabilities. Txting a message such as “Set a meeting with jeff on tue” will initiate a negotiation between your calendar and Jeff’s calendar. The system will figure out the best time for you to meet, when and where or will offer suggestions for a better day. You won’t deal with any of it; the system will do the work.

This has huge implications for TV as an app. You won’t ever need to know anything about what show is on what network or even the name of the show. You’ll txt something like “TV show with the skateboarder I follow on Snapchat” and the chatbot will start playing the latest episode or give you some other options to view or interact with the omni-channel property. You can’t even call this a TV show; it’s an IP-delivered video property with a full array of digital and social components. AI-empowered chatbots are on the way. The question is, when?

Sooner than You Think

If you look closely at all of the related technologies required to change the way we consume media, it is clear that the primordial techno-soup is brewing. My guess is that smartphones will cease to exist in their present form within a decade. Big-screen TVs will cease to be the “best” way to watch football in about the same timeframe. Local bandwidth will empower group viewing with headsets or glasses or whatever they evolve into even sooner, probably 60 months or less. And everything we think we know about media consumption will seriously change. Millennials in movie theaters? Sunday gatherings for football? Mass media measured as a function of the number of users of fixed devices? Set-top boxes? Sets?

This may be an amazingly profitable year for the TV business, and for reasons that have nothing to do with television technology or consumer behavior, profits may continue to rise. But sometime in the very near future, something awesome is going to emerge from today’s frothy primordial techno-soup – and I would not be surprised to see it change the very structure of the TV business. TV as an app or as a chatbot service … imagine the possibilities!

Named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Technology, Shelly Palmer is President & CEO of Palmer Advanced Media, a strategic advisory and business development practice focused at the nexus of technology, media and marketing with a special emphasis on data science and data-driven decision making. He is Fox 5 New York's on-air tech and digital media expert and a regular commentator on CNBC and CNN.

Go Shelly Palmer or @shellypalmer

Xiaomi Presents Android TV STB

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Google finds an Android TV partner in Xiaomi-- the Chinese company announces the Mi Box at Google I/O 2016, an STB running on the aforementioned OS complete with 4K video support and Google Cast technology.

Xiaomi Mi BoxThe STB is not the first featuring the Mi Box monicker, but earlier versions were not available outside of Xiaomi's home China. The new Mi Box is also the first to be both 4K- and HDR-capable. Google Cast technology allows users to easily push content from smartphones or tablets to the STB, while control comes through either included remote, voice or optional game controller.

The Google I/O conference also has announcements involving Google-powered TVs-- the company states Android TV will be available in Europe in Beko, Grundig and Vestel TVs. Google Cast will be compatible with soon-shipping TVs from Toshiba, Philips, Magnavox, Westinghouse and Polaroid.

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Olympus Presents Tough Action Camera

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Olympus takes on the action camera likes of GoPro and Ricoh with the Stylus TG-Tracker-- a Tough series number featuring a ruggedised design able to survive water, shocks, freezing and even crushing out of the box.

Stylus TG-TrackerAccording to the company the camera can survive up to 100kg of force without being crushed and has an IPX8 rating for both dust and water proofing. To further suit tough environments it also features a bevy of sensors and radios, including GPS, barometric pressure sensor, temperature sensor, compass and accelerometer.

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Polaroid Enters Smart TVs

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Polaroid TVSmart TVs are the next product category for reborn camera maker Polaroid, as the company reveals the first of such products at the Google I/O conference, all armed with Google Cast technology.

Google Cast allows users to easily cast content from compatible apps running on devices or PCs to the TV all without need for cables.

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Jaybird Intros Freedom Earbuds

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Headphone maker Jaybird announces what it claims are its smallest earbuds yet-- the Freedom, a pair of wireless earbuds combining features from the X2 sports headphones with a companion app and a battery pack.

Jaybird FreedomAccording to the company the Freedom earbuds are 20% smaller than previous models, making them a better fit for more customers. However it insists the small size does not affect audio quality, while the packing includes a variety of rubber and foam tips to ensure a perfect fit for most, if not all, wearers.

Construction is in metal injection moulding, and Jaybird ensures the earbuds are sweat-proof.

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