It’s no CES, but the NAB show in Las Vegas typically includes a great sample of innovative video technology, along with gear that only a newscaster could love.
This year was no different. Along with the heavy, heavy gear – including a flying news helicopter and a mobile weather jeep for storm-chasing and broadcasting at the same time – some interesting technologies and products with applications beyond local TV stations surfaced. Here are four that caught my eye:
AX3 Parallax Scanning Adapter
This nifty kludge fits onto the front of a video camera and adds the perception of 3D depth to a high-definition image.
The heart of the system is a rapidly rotating iris that introduces tiny movement into the video. This movement is imperceptible, but fools the brain into “seeing” depth. I watched a variety of demos, and the stuff really works. It’s not as deep as 3D, but it delivers some depth without glasses or requiring your head to sit in a certain place. The company also sells plug-ins for graphics – and presumably video games – that deliver the same effect.
No post-processing is required. No special sets. No special cameras. No special displays. Just a nifty little scientific breakthrough that’s based on parallax technology, and fits on top of standard camera lenses.
Unfortunately you can’t buy this stuff – except for a 3D software plug-in. You can rent specially equipped video cameras from them – at prices starting at $2,000 a day. What the company really wants is to license its technology and patents to camera manufacturers – which may or may not happen. The good news is you can check out the stuff right now – and decide for yourself if it’s useful. You can find them at http://inv3.com/
Did you ever want a sports bar setup in your house, where you could watch multiple games simultaneously? How about being able to monitor ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox at the same time on your tablet, so you’ll know when to tune into one of them on your big screen TV? That’s what this new device does. It includes 4 ATSC over-the-air HDTV tuners to bring in up to four channels, combine them into a single video stream, and then route them wirelessly to iOS or Android devices, or to your big screen TV via Chromecast. It also lets tablet and phone users watch those individual channels full screen, which means four different users can watch four different things simultaneously.
It’s pretty simple to set up – just connect the device to your home router via Ethernet, plug a single HDTV antenna into the back and you’re off and running. It doesn’t include DVR capability – although the company is considering adding that down the road. And right now it’ll only combine signals from over-the-air sources. But for around $150 (less if you join the kickstarter now), you can have one in time for football season.
The guys at Freecast have made a boatload of money on its $10 annual “RabbitTV” service, which essentially builds a TV guide on top of the thousands of free video sources on the Internet. SelecTV originally sold a USB stick to run the service, but what it really sold was an easy-to-use interface to freely watch available web video. Its slick infomercials and displays at local drug-stores drove them to a million subscribers in just six months, and over 4 million lifetime – but also drew the ridicule of many tech-savvy journalists and observers.
Now it’s coming out with a set top box that does much of the same things, but includes the ability for content creators to build live streaming channels to augment the on-demand and other sources that RabbitTV already includes. Available this summer for $99, the SelecTV box will combine OTA HD signals with all the other stuff RabbitTV includes – and hopefully new streamed channels from its partners as well. The company’s goal is “All the Web’s Content. All in One Place.”
We’ll see – but certainly there’s a lot of innovation happening in the over-the-air video space, as both Freecast and 4SETV were demonstrating at NAB.
Drones, Drones, Drones
This was definitely the year of the drone at NAB. DJI was there with the new Phantom 3, along with higher end models, and many other companies showed off everything from low-end GoPro platforms to super-high end aircraft with extended range and battery life. They even had a special drone area in the back of the south hall.
I really liked the 3D Robotics Solo, because it fully integrates with the GoPro line of cameras, adds follow-me features and claims to fly for over 20 minutes (compared to less than 10 with the earlier DJI models). It also transmits video from the GoPro to the controller on the ground or a tablet. The demos were impressive, but there’s no release date available yet. It’ll start at $1000, but you’ll want to add a gimbal, and a more advanced controller as well, which will run you another $700 or so.