What is the Future of Television? The LinkedTV Project prepares TV for seamless integration with the Web to the benefit of broadcasters and viewers.
As the EU funded R&D project LinkedTV began its work in October 2011, bringing together 12 European research and industry experts from 8 countries, its stated goal was the “seamless interlinking of TV and the Web”. Convergence of TV and the Web was at its beginning and the visionary group, led scientifically by Dr Lyndon Nixon, now Assistant Professor at the New Media Technology Group in MODUL University Vienna, foresaw a near term future where watching TV or browsing Web content would become essentially the same experience, with consumers moving between TV and Web content as easily as Web users were following hyperlinks to browse different Web pages back then. TV viewing as a passive experience would be perfectly complemented by the active browsing of additional information and content on the Web that it could trigger.
The group could not have anticipated how quickly and significantly technology in the market would shift in this direction, with increasing Internet bandwidth and device capabilities making TV/video streaming over Internet available to all, broadcasters launching TVoD and Catch-up TV services to their viewers and SmartTV sales meaning TV viewing in the living room now also had an Internet backchannel available. The utopian world of merged TV and Web seemed close; however TV programme viewers weren’t getting their information needs answered through Web-connected apps on their TVs, instead of having full screen Facebook on their TV they were looking for information on things in the TV shows, background to the news story, more examples of the art visible in the background of the scene – and are there paintings by that artist in the nearby museum?
Today’s TV viewers are multitaskers – they have a laptop, tablet or smartphone to hand while consuming TV on the big screen, and they turn to that second device to use the Web for additional information and content. However, companion applications are not well synchronised to this search – largely, their “knowledge” of what’s on is limited to identifying the programme and linking to social Web conversation around it or a list of cast members. What they don’t know, and today can’t know, is what is INSIDE the TV programme at the time the user is viewing it and could be interested in. So viewer’s real needs for Web and TV convergence are still not answered today – how to find out more about something you see in a TV programme if you don’t know what it’s called, for example?
LinkedTV has been working on the solution. By bringing together R&D experts across Europe who could provide the right tools to enable the envisioned interlinking of TV and the Web, we have produced a number of demonstrators where the experience of watching news – from the German broadcaster RBB – or a cultural heritage programme – the Dutch version of Antiques Roadshow from AVROTROS – is enhanced by additional information and content at the viewers fingertips – whether through remote control actions on a HbbTV-supporting SmartTV or through a Web application on their tablet or laptop. This information goes far beyond programme description or cast details like today’s offers – LinkedTV enables linking to information about concepts like persons, places and organisations inside the news story, links to background or related stories, or even browsing similar art objects in European collections while watching the discussion about another art object on screen.
“Years of collaboration, knowledge and technology transfer, implementation, prototyping and evaluation have brought us to this point, where we can offer an integrated set of services and software to content owners who would like to enrich their video with links to related information”, summarizes Dr Nixon, who initiated the LinkedTV idea following his PhD on multimedia enrichment in 2007 and acted as scientific coordinator of the LinkedTV project work, which finished in March 2015. “Trials with RBB and AVROTROS viewers have shown they appreciate the ability to easily access further information about what they see in the TV programme when they want. Viewers result in being more satisfied and engaged by the content. The broadcasters also stand to gain by offering LinkedTV enrichments as an added value service alongside selected content, as it can attract both new viewers and retain existing viewers, and promote their archived and long tail content with a new viewer experience.”
LinkedTV results – software, services, demos and reports – are published publicly at http://www.linkedtv.eu
LinkedTV products and demonstrators for media organisations are presented at http://showcase.linkedtv.eu
LinkedCulture demonstrator: https://vimeo.com/108891238
LinkedNews demonstrator: https://vimeo.com/119107849
Technology consultancy and proof of concept creation are possible. Organisations interested in LinkedTV enrichments for their content can contact Modul Technology GmbH c/o Lyndon Nixon.