October 14, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: why we'll see many more operator-made smart TVs next year, and how Facebook is looking to kickstart AI for AR.
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Companies that sell people TV subscriptions now also want to sell them TV sets: First, Protocol broke the news that Comcast is preparing to launch its own TVs under the XClass brand. Then, Comcast-owned Sky announced the launch of its own line of Sky Glass smart TVs in Europe.
Now, operator-made smart TVs could get another major boost. Smart TV OS and services provider Vewd has teamed up with European TV maker Vestel to make operator-branded TV sets. I caught up with Vewd Chief Product Officer Sascha Prueter this week to learn more about the company's new Operator TV offering, and understand what opportunity pay TV providers see in the smart TV business.
Comcast's answer has been to build smart TVs from scratch, which involved teaming up with TV manufacturers like Hisense and porting its X1 operating system to their hardware. Most other operators don't have the resources for those kinds of ambitious bets, which is where companies like Vewd come in.
Whether people will buy this TV is still an open question, and everyone in the industry is looking to Comcast for clues. However, some operators seem to be ready to stick their toes in the water with initiatives like Vewd's Operator TV. "We will see the first devices in the market next year," Prueter told me.
That being said, some operators seem to be aware of the danger that their TVs could be perceived as part of a lock-in strategy. Expect lots of marketing highlighting things other than pay TV.
Ultimately, these TVs could also change how operators approach their business, with a shift from pay TV to a bigger focus on advertising and online subscription revenues. "They are starting to become super-aggregators," Prueter said.
"Yes Pluto is a 🚀 but get excited for our third Reorg in as many months!" — PARQOR analyst Andrew Rosen, making fun of Viacom prioritizing Paramount over its streaming assets.
"Hey Boz, nice looking research project. Want to trade for a production quality device hot out of our factory?" — HTC President Alvin Wang Graylin, trying to sweet talk future Facebook CTO Andrew Bosworth into sharing some more details on Facebook's VR roadmap.
"No deal." — Bosworth's response.
This fall, as enterprises everywhere decide whether to return to the office, continue working remotely or establish a hybrid working model, collaborative technology platforms will be more important than ever. Asana COO Anne Raimondi shares advice with business leaders as they move into the next productive work phase, whatever shape that may take.
How do you build AI systems for AR glasses that can make sense of the world from the perspective of the person wearing those glasses? Turns out the best solution may be video recorded from that same point-of-view perspective.
Facebook collaborated with 13 universities and research labs to capture such data as part of a new project called Ego4D. The result has been 2,200 hours of footage recorded by 700 individuals, which will be made available to AI researchers in the coming months.
Even if captured from an eye-level perspective, videos shot on a phone aren't very useful when it comes to teaching AI. "I'm still an orchestrator of the content, and I'm creating it in some way, as opposed to just living it," Grauman said.
Facebook worked with universities from around the world on Ego4D, including the U.K., Italy, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United States.
Ultimately, data like the video captured with Ego4D will not only help build AI assistants for AR glasses, but also other technologies that could one day help us in our day-to-day lives. "The dexterous robots of the future have a long way to go," Grauman said. "But if they can learn from watching our skills without having to purely rely on their own physical experience in the world, this will be a much more scalable way to train them."
This has been a busy week, as you may be able to tell by the number of Protocol stories linked above. So instead of an elaborate take on the latest AR wizardry, I'll leave you with a joke my 10-year-old told me last night:
What does the magician say to the fishmonger? Pick a cod, any cod.
Thanks for reading — see you next week!