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Product Finds
by Rick Smith (January 17, 2001)


At the 38th annual NATPE Conference & Exhibition, in Las Vegas, the convergence of traditional television and high technology was quite strong. Some of the well known industry heavyweights exhibiting were Warner Brothers, Telefilm Canada, Buena Vista, MGM, Columbia TriStar, Studios USA, Twentieth , Universal, Tribune Entertainment and Viacom. Conferences also demonstrated convergence in this industry and ranged the gamut from the conventional issues of marketing and finance to security and intellectual property rights in a digital world.

Technology firms in attendance were:

Be Here
blaxxun interactive
Lucent Digital Video
Mainframe Entertainment
Martin Hash
Oracle Mobile
Sun Micro
Texas Instruments

One to One Television Advertising
Television is a broadcast medium and the commercials that pay for it are bound by the same rules -- everyone gets the same thing, at the same time. Digital ADCO (ACTV subsidiary) has now changed this for the digital age by creating their SpotOn One to One Television Advertising software technology. Commercials can be specifically targeted to the demographics of each individual viewer and viewers can choose commercials that are of interest to them.

This SpotOn technology gets the specific commercial to the specific cable box, making TV advertising more meaningful and useful to the viewer. These commercials are full motion and full screen, like other cable content and unlike the other targeted interactive advertisement, the banner ad, these commercials have much greater effectiveness.

Key features include:

  • ability to insert system level advertising into digital channels

  • reporting capability when each spot was shown in each home

  • airing a spot in the appropriate language for each home

  • empowering consumers to get additional information (video, audio or data) about the advertised product during commercial breaks

  • ability to remember viewer’s earlier choices and send further commercials that contain additional information

    ACTV recently announced a technology partnership with Qpass (read Qpass article). Using the SpotOn technology, consumers watch commercials that are relevant to their lifestyle. The Qpass technology adds the ability for the viewer to take action easily, including immediate purchasing of the product. This certainly is a 21st century revitalization of the standard broadcast commercial, which has been with us since the 1940’s. 


    blaxxun's Instant Community
    Real characters in a virtual world
    blaxxun interactive, not content to be the granddaddy of 3D immersive communities on the Web, has released a complete, low-cost toolkit, called Instant Community, designed to make it easy to put a virtual world on every web site.

    Why bother making your site avatar-friendly? blaxxun believes that immersing your site visitors in an interactive, social environment will benefit the bottom-line in two ways. First, their figures show that 3D environments are nearly three times as "sticky" as conventional sites, holding the visitor's interest for around 40 minutes per visit versus 15 minutes on a 2D site. Secondly, 3D billboards are attracting unheard of click-through rates of 5% or 10 times the draw of most banner ads.

    Of course, inviting your visitor into your virtual parlor is a lot easier than actually building one. So, blaxxun set out to reduce the barrier to entry with its Instant Community (IC) toolkit, a sort of world-builder-in-a-box. IC includes a Place Builder tool that allows you to lay out the architecture, decor, and furniture of the place using lots of prebuilt parts or ones you design yourself.

    Your site visitors can jump right in, since no browser plug-in is required to participate, A Java-capable browser is all they need to run the lightweight (55KB) Java applet. Usually, they sign-in, select an avatar (or 3D surrogate persona), and wade right into the experience you've crafted for them. Once they get into it, more demanding users can download 3D Contact, a peddle-to-the-metal viewer optimized for their 3D accelerated graphics card.

    A fully-functional, 30-day trial version of Instant Community is available from blaxxun, allowing up to 3 simultaneous users. Of course, to build a public community, you'll pay more. But, starting at $7500 for 50 simultaneous visitors, Instant Community, can scale your site from five thousand registered users and up. You then can purchase more capacity as your community demands (and budget allows) more.

    Besides the draw of the 3D environment itself, another appeal of such environments is the same as any community: to see and be seen. So, when your visitors move beyond just visiting, they'll want to customize their avatar using Avatar Studio (AS), a $20 tool that lets you define your 3D persona from the ground up. Using AS you can define everything from your body dimensions, skin color, hair type, and clothing to how you wave hello. Once you've perfected your look, your avatar can represent you in any blaxxun community.

    Instant Community:
    - $7500 (free, 3-user evaluation)
    - 50 simultaneous users
    - 5,000 registered users
    - Includes: Place Builder, Avatar Studio

    Avatar Studio
    - $19.95
    - body style: measurements, hair, and skin
    - wardrobe: underwear, clothing, shoes, hats, and glasses
    - 10 built-in gestures (hello, shrug, etc) 


    Pictron Media Gateway
    The addition of video clips to a web site makes it more compelling to visitors. In the past, cataloging information within video content hasn’t been as easy as it has been with text-based pages. Pictron has now changed this with their Media Gateway, which can search and index video content. This technology works with stored clips as well as real-time streaming.

    By using intelligent video analysis techniques, The Pictron Media Gateway performs the following steps:

  • Scene changes are detected and key frames are created in a storyboard

  • Features present in the key frames such as color, texture, human faces and shapes are recognized and recorded in a database. SMPTE time code is used for reference.

  • Text overlay information present is also recorded.

  • Verbal speech present in the audio track is transcribed using speaker independent speech recognition. If “closed caption” is present, that text can be used for the transcript. Music, silence and specific speakers can also be detected.

    Videos can be searched using visual cues, text content or other database information using any standard browser. Now it is quite easy for anyone to retrieve a specific video clip, with just the click of a mouse button. 


    Qpass digital t-commerce solutions
    Content providers are searching for different revenue models, other than banner ads. The subscription-based model is quite promising. Unfortunately creating a secure solution to handle the necessary management, distribution, customer support, transaction processing, billing and reporting in this subscription model can be a daunting task. Qpass has created a solution -- the Qpass Connected Commerce Platform. This service helps content providers concentrate on creating their content and being paid for it, instead of forcing them to become e-commerce experts or billing clerks.

    Qpass provides these eWallet and t-commerce infrastructure services to not only to content providers, but also to retailers and service providers as well. These technologies help:

  • Assist in the sales of goods, services or content by providing the seller a way to provide a single point of contact to their consumer, regardless of platform or network bandwidth

  • Provide a single integration architecture for mobile, interactive television or PC environments by staying compatible with multiple interactive television standards and operating systems including Microsoft and Liberate

  • Create a payment method with a consistent user interface and account management capabilities. Different sellers share a common system so the consumer doesn’t have to sign up to create new accounts for each purchases from a different vendor.

    This technology is compelling to consumers because:

  • Payment information is securely stored and managed

  • personal information doesn’t have to be entered for each transaction or merchant

  • the purchase experience is consistent if a lower bandwidth device is used (PDA or cell phone).

  • an entire range of purchases can be made from “micro dollars” to thousands of dollars

  • All payment methods are supported (credit card, direct debit, direct ISP billing and alternative Web currencies)

  • Purchases can be easily tracked and manage from a single point

    ACTV recently announced an agreement to integrate the Qpass Connected Commerce Platform and eWallet transaction service with their iTV advertising service. (Read about Spot On technology.) Now network operators who deploy Spot On will have access to a secure e-commerce infrastructure to support TV-commerce transactions between on-line merchants and their customers using current generation and advanced digital set-top boxes. Now consumers will be able to buy products directly from the ads they see on TV.  


    RealPlayer GoldPass Subscription
    As television executives wonder why their viewers are disappearing, increasing numbers of them are paying RealNetworks to become subscribers of RealPlayer GoldPass. Available for $9.95 per month, this premium service provides special audio and video content, value-added software, games and advanced services. The membership growth rate has been very fast, with over 150,000 paying subscribers joining since August 2000.

    With over 170 million unique registered users, RealNetworks is in the unique position to offer this paid option to a vast, worldwide audience. Some of the exclusive content available is:

  • ABCNEWS.com

  • Spice Girls concerts and videos

  • Smithsonian Institute programs

  • House of Blues concerts

  • Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous

  • RealTV

  • Valve's Team Fortress game

  • exclusive celebrity interviews

    Each month new programs and content become available. Just after the 2001 NATPE Event in Las Vegas, RealNetworks announced their multi-year deal with the NBA. Now, live Internet broadcasts of NBA.com TV and NBA.com Audio will also be available to GoldPass subscribers. It appears that the 1,000 channel TV system talked about in the 1990's as being available in the 21st Century, is now here. 


    Want to see all this page in a more compact form? View the linked version of this article. It's a smaller download than this page, and each product's information is only a link away.

    Copyright © 2006 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

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