Digital Media

Audio Regains First Class Citizen Status in Digital Media Experiences

by Avni Rambhia 02 Mar 2014
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In the early days of online video communication and online video delivery, audio was a critical component of the overall quality of experience. When audio is smooth and clear, it can compensate for jitters or glitches in video. On the other hand, loss of synchronization between audio and video can demolish the quality of experience even if the video is otherwise flawless. As audio technology matured and the industry nearly universally relied on offerings from Fraunhofer and Dolby for their audio needs, industry focus shifted to video resolution and compression improvements, with audio taking a back seat in terms of R&D, innovation and differentiation. This is changing.

At CES this year, we saw many television sets demonstrating UltraHD experiences. While the video quality was compelling, simple single-channel or even stereo sound clearly fell short of complementing the visual experience. There is growing emphasis in consumer electronics stores on surround sound systems to serve this need, as well as a growing trend of recording and rendering 360 degree surround sound audio - particularly for movies and console games. We are also starting to see some video encoder vendors such as ATEME in contrbution and pay TV applications beginning to differentiate not only on video features but also on audio capabilities.

In terms of user interfaces, 4-arrow remote controls are ineffective in implementing user experiences that are well matched to the needs of interactive and smart TVs, and subscribers used to intuitive and personalized touch screen devices. Audio is playing a growing role in next generation interfaces, as voice recognition technology matures and also as sound tracks are leveraged in new and interesting ways. For example, Gracenote has an application which automatically recognizes the current TV show playing based on analysis of ambient audio, and customizes the second screen experience accordingly. This trend is also expected to grow.

As audio begins to regain its first class citizenship status within the digital media ecosystem, Frost & Sullivan is intensifying its research into and coverage of this technology. Stay tuned for more!

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