Feeds

BBC boffins ponder abstruse Ikea-style way of transmitting telly

'What's it supposed to be, dad?' 'Leave your father alone'

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Future broadcasting could resemble IKEA flat pack furniture - with the bits and pieces of each transmission assembled at home, perhaps in ways not intended by the designer - if boffins at the BBC get their way.

The traditional approach is to mix the media before it's transmitted in a linear stream. But brainboxes at BBC R&D are looking at an "object oriented" transmission approach, which envisages the "receiver" - a TV, radio or fondleslab for example - reassembling a bundle of media objects after it gets them.

The ever-increasing computational power of media receivers makes such research plausible. There's an analogy with spread spectrum radio, which became commercially viable decades after it was conceived and first demonstrated, because of the lowering cost of computation. Today's 3G transmissions increase spectrum efficiency for a network because the "terminal" is doing much more graft.

The O-O transmission idea isn't new - here's a paper [PostScript format] from 1997 on the subject, and another from 2004, for example - but it is more viable every day.

There are some advantages of putting together the bits and pieces at the receiver, as the BBC's Tony Churnside explains in this recent blog post.

One is that the method makes it easy to serve content set up for lots of different kinds of platform, so the stream can include elements for all devices and the client chooses the most appropriate one. Another is that it offers the listener more choice: you could choose where to "sit" during a transmission of a live performance, or adjust presets as on an equaliser.

The technology might even, as the BBC's Churnside puts it, allow "a viewer to have the programme content tailored to their taste or mood".  No doubt some would wish to replace an objectionable interviewee - Ed Balls or Nigel Farage perhaps - with something more soothing, producing customised news automatically.

Indeed the blog post does acknowledge such a concern:

"How do we deal with phenomena like media bubbles and conformation bias? What are the implications of this for the writing and production process?"

It's likely to undermine creative confidence even further if viewers insist on always "voting" for a happy ending.

It's hard to see just why any of this requires complex additional processing at the receiver end, and we can usefully recall what sank the object-oriented software hype of twenty years ago. In the early 1990s, every software powerhouse in the industry was touting O-O as the future of software. Many predicted that users would pick and mix components, rather than use monolithic software packages. It was the Cloud Computing or Big Data of its era.

What happened was that the components added complexity and often sapped resources - but weren't perceived to offer much more value over a monolithic bundle. Features were valued over choice. So for retail software, monolithic won the day.

But don't underestimate the appeal of O-O transmission to two groups of people. One is BBC middle management, who will form "a metadata working group" at the drop of hat, and spend years having meetings which typically achieve nothing - but consume a lot of license fee money.

The other group is TV manufacturers, who are facing a grim future as undifferentiated, commoditised floggers of flat panels. O-O might allow them to sell more expensive sets.

And with 3D flopping, they need some magic marketing woo from somewhere. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Sorry London, Europe's top tech city is Munich
New 'Atlas of ICT Activity' finds innovation isn't happening at Silicon Roundabout
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.