An excerpt from Convergence, How the World Will Be Painted With Data
By Anne McKinnon
Television captivated audiences like no other medium before it. “On TV, they feel it, they’re involved for the first time,” said journalist Marshall McLuhan in a CBC interview on March 19, 1967.
Augmented Reality takes TV a step further, dissolving the space between broadcast and viewer. It transports the audience into new worlds in their own space, or into the world of streamers across the globe.
AR TV is blazing the path for new forms of content. It’s a place where the audience is in a position to interact, change and even re-work content. From VHS to mobile streaming, technology has once again changed the way we find, watch, share, track and create content.
Interactive AR Television Series
One of the world’s first AR TV series is the Norwegian interactive game show, Lost in Time, by The Future Group and Fremantle Media. In this series, viewers play an active role, competing with other viewers in the show’s gamified touchscreen mobile version. Viewers face the same challenges as the characters on TV and are awarded real cash prizes.
“The viewers at home can do those same challenges, but we’ve also added meta-features to ensure user retention,” said Ellen Einarson, Future Group’s director of games, in an interview with GameCrate. “People also play throughout the week and earn virtual currencies in order to participate in the biggest tournaments, with the bigger physical prizes, when the show is live. A player at home will be chosen to win the same money reward that one of the contestants takes away, so it’s obviously in their benefit that the contestants do really well.”
Using taps, slides and holds on the mobile screen, the audience has access to fictional worlds for target practice, logic exercises, maze-like race challenges, obstacle courses and guiding land and airborne vehicles. Built using Unreal Engine, Lost In Time combines game technology, green screen, and props to guide participants.
Moving Beyond the Screen
At SXSW 2018, Eyecandylab presented their augmen.tv platform that brings AR to any moving image. “Our technology is able to detect the position of the screen in the room and then it identifies and analyzes what is happening in the screen to then show you and display all the AR content,” said Lucy Nguyen, Eyecandylab’s global head of business development, in an interview with Charlie Fink in Forbes.
At SXSW, Eyecandylab demoed their software, showing a coral reef on one screen with a secondary device becoming an extension of the first screen. Digital fish swim off the first screen and into the surrounding area, as captured by the secondary device.
“What we are aiming to do is to make linear TV more interactive,” said Nguyen. If someone is watching a documentary on the Golden Gate Bridge, for example, his or her mobile screen will show options for additional information in tabs that appear next to objects on the mobile device. It’s also possible to add 3D models so that viewers can have a more sophisticated view of what is happening on screen.
We All Need Glasses
Rather than rely on expensive hardware such as a television, tablet or computer, AR glasses may be the future of AR TV. Available essentially anytime and anywhere, AR glasses will facilitate more intuitive interaction with AR TV and can overlay information and digital objects in the physical world for mass consumption of data.
One of the barriers-to-entry to TV in VR is the hefty devices, in the form of displays, that the majority of people can’t stand to have strapped to their face. AR glasses offer a viewing solution in a way that isn’t as socially hazardous. So, the future of television may not be “television” at all, but AR streaming through glasses and, one day, contact lenses.
In e-Sports, gamers broadcast live play, re-runs, commentary, events, and personal experiences as a way to reach their audience. A streamer’s persona, both on- and off-screen, is his or her brand. With the use of AR becoming commonplace, AR can be a way to add distinguishing looks to a channel and to engage viewers.
While not as complex as an entire AR TV series, AR tools for streaming have been among the quickest to be mass adopted by users. Twitch, a live streaming and video platform with over 15 million unique daily visitors, is integrating Snapchat’s AR camera to apply AR selfie filters and accessories to live streaming.
Wearables are also finding a way into streaming, and will surely find a place in AR TV series as a way to reduce the need for a secondary screen. At the 2018 Capitol Royale hackathon hosted by Capitol Records, hackers devised a way for Twitch streamers to use Specktr gloves to interact with viewers in AR. “You can literally reach out to your audience with these wearable devices,” said hacker Tom Brückner.
New Visions of Television
Augmented television is slowly transforming the landscape of TV. We’re moving away from linear narratives and passive audiences to non-linear storytelling that engages with multiplayer, interactive, gamified and shareable content.
It appears as if we are seeing a variety of media converge into one. Perhaps it is a sign of the convergence of all media into AR and VR, too. AR is a powerful tool to connect with those around us, both physically and digitally, as well as with our environment.
AR TV has barely seen the light of day. As the division between content creator and consumer, TV and gaming, TV, AR, and VR continue to blur,an entirely new version of TV will soon emerge.