As chief technology officer for Panasonic, Eisuke Tsuyuzaki has his finger on the pulse.
He's widely credited with creating a unified standard for 3D Blu-ray and has been a major evangelist for Blu-ray within Hollywood's creative community.
He's also a card carrying member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and sits on the board of the DEG (Digital Entertainment Group) studio think tank. What's on his agenda today will probably be in your living room tomorrow.
Rather conveniently, he's also a passionate and candid evangelist for technology. TechRadar caught up with him recently, to get his take of what's on store for the future of home entertainment.
Predictably Tsuyuzaki is upbeat. "It's rare that major technological advances happen at a singular moment in time," he says, "and it's even rarer when they come together at a surprisingly affordable price point. We're in such a period now."
The reason, he says, is a confluence in the capabilities of microprocessors and the wide adoption of broadband internet services. The result will be "a sea change in the way we can access entertainment and knowledge."
Tsuyuzaki is convinced the industry is on the threshold of radical change and he's excited.
3D reaches beyond geekdom
Panasonic's CTO is not afraid of risk-taking. Along with Jeffery Katzenberg, James Cameron and producer Jon Landau, he was an early believer in the potential of high-tech home 3D, and gives short shrift to naysayers. The technology, he says, is already a success.
"Within North America, the industry shipped some 2 million Full HD 3D enabled televisions after just nine months on the market. This is a significant milestone. It means we have already surpassed what I call the laserdisc threshold. We have already taken 3D from geekdom to an early mass market."
"Compare this to the rollout of HD TV. The industry sold less than half a million HD sets in five years. Consumers who have purchased home Full HD 3D are not just the early and affluent videophiles, but also young gamers and (surprisingly) young families. In our research we know that an equal number of male and females are actively involved in the purchase decision. 3D has to cater to all genders and demographics."
NEW TECH: Panasonic launches its first 3D LED TVs in the shape of the DT30 series. New tech means low 3D crosstalk, says the firm
While Tsuyuzaki admits that there has been a content shortage for 3D, he believes things are changing rapidly.
"Many of the big 3D Hollywood movies you've seen in theaters are now coming to PPV and VOD services, in addition to WWE (wrestling) and adult content. It's similar to those early HD TV offerings, but at a much faster rollout. With 3D now a feature on affordable video camcorders and digital still cameras, as well as video games and YouTube, the format will stop being just an added entertainment value and become an integral part of our social lives."
So what's the next significant development after 3D? Eisuke Tsuyuzaki is in no doubt that it's the proliferation of connected TVs and services.
"In my honest view, no one really knows how this will ultimately evolve," he confides, "although there are plenty of ambitions of global domination."
As people begin to connect their TVs to the internet in ever greater numbers, Panasonic's technologist predicts that the viewing experience will change beyond recognition. "Forget about that 500 channel universe. We're now talking about options multiples bigger."
He says with "numerous PPV/VOD type offerings from all players jockeying for position," this is just the start of massive media shift that will see "mainstream linear content channels who wish to keep the status quo" clashing with others keen to "slice, dice and disaggregate content in the same way that iTunes pioneered the ability to search for and then buy just one track rather than a whole album."
So what are we to make of hardware companies assuming the role of gatekeeper with their own walled IPTV gardens? This year Panasonic migrates its Viera Cast IPTV service to Viera Connect, a cloud based app-driven connected TV offering on a much grander scale.
Not only will Viera Connect offer a significantly richer viewer experience, but there is provision for sports, health and fitness activities and games as well.
CONNECT: For 2011, Panasonic is swapping out its Viera Cast IPTV portal for the cloud based, app-driven Viera Connect platform
Tsuyuzaki says hardware brands are not going into competition with media companies. "It's hard to imagine CE manufacturers creating their own networks to compete with traditional networks," he says, adding the sheer cost of licensing content prohibits that kind of direction.
"We need to be practical and find innovations focused on what the consumer wants, while still making a reasonable profit for reinvestment."
Instead he predicts that brands like Panasonic will take advantage of the proliferation of new content by developing technologies that enable seamless multiroom viewing.
He says there will be a growing desire to "watch in and out of the home via second screens such as a tablet or laptop," perhaps with an ability to filter the content deluge based on viewing preferences.
MISSING LINK: Panasonic believes tablet devices will provide the missing link between the proliferation of IPTV service and consumer electronics
"I think consumers will simply want the ability to take media anywhere, anytime and anyhow from any provider."
Ultimately he says hardware manufacturers will need to collaborate with traditional content and new media providers.
"It's still a work in progress and it's going to take a little more time to shake out but as with any successful market innovation we must follow consumer behaviour and usage patterns in order to prosper.
"If there are no real consumer benefits, there's no point in proceeding. But I think if we can combine the dynamic nature of the internet with the rich content that only linear programming can provide we can provide a legitimately new experience. Time will tell."
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