Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

The elephant and the mouse

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast September 13, 2012

Tech giants could learn from IBC’s small developers, says Kate Bulkley

The myth that elephants are scared of mice illustrates how the smallest things can have the power to unsettle the largest - and that thought occurred to me after this year’s IBC technology conference in Amsterdam.

One of the star speakers was newly appointed Samsung media guru David Eun - a Korean American with Silicon Valley experience who joined the giant electrical manufacturer at the start of the year to set up an internal global media group.

Eun previously headed AOL’s content creation business and, prior to that, led the content aggregation business at Google - so he gets content. He also has a broad remit, right across the $148bn (£95bn) Samsung empire, encompassing TV and mobile and reaching into other consumer devices as well, including the potential to add screens to Samsung refrigerators, or create window panes that double as TV screens.

Eun’s vision is pretty simple: to connect all the different Samsung devices to each other to create “one of the world’s largest platforms for distributing content and services and advertising”.

Samsung is also putting facial recognition into its TV sets (the better to target ads and content) and already has more than 2,000 apps running on its SmartTV hub on its connected TVs.

Eun is looking at all kinds of services and content - from “three guys in a garage doing a cool education app” to deals with Netflix. And although he said he wasn’t writing any cheques to create bespoke content at the moment (like YouTube, Netflix and Hulu all are), he didn’t rule it out.

He also wants a more “open” ecosystem than Apple’s content and payment system, and will work with different operating systems, from Google’s Android to Windows, and has a new alliance with Intel for an HTML 5-based platform for web apps.

“There are many paths to Rome and we want to facilitate whatever makes sense for consumers and partners,” said Eun. “I don’t think we should make a bet in one area and I don’t think we have to. We want to iterate and learn like the best of the Silicon Valley start-ups.”

But if the new head of media at Samsung was the elephant at the conference, then who was the mouse?

For me, it was Dutch artist-cum-technologist Sander Veenhof, who was tucked away in a small room in the vast IBC complex talking about how - via a layer app he had created - second-screen viewers can access a host of additional content stuck on top of their regular TV programmes.

Using augmented reality technology, Veenhof has put speech bubbles above guests on a Dutch TV chat show that you only see by holding up your second screen to the TV set so the app is set off by audio or video triggers.

He also added a Pacman-style overlay to a live football match using the players as triggers. It was clever and cool, and even the 20-something students in the session were transfixed. Advertisers are already using AR apps to ‘amplify’ bus shelters and billboards.

When you get ‘cool’ and ‘advertising opportunities’ in one wrapping, then things start to get interesting. This mouse might not scare the Samsung elephant, but it, and all the other big beasts of TV tech, should be taking note.

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