AT&T Touts the U-Verse Reality
ATLANTA -- Lee Friedman, director of emerging technologies and solutions at AT&T Labs, is standing in front of a TV, swiping at a green blog in the air that's not really there.
He hasn't lost his mind; he's simply using a high-tech trick to manipulate virtual objects in a real setting. He's also indirectly proving a point about AT&T's decision to go IP with its U-verse consumer TV service.
In Friedman's demo, he used a depth-sensing camera, a PC with a little more graphics horsepower than a standard set-top box, and some open-source software from YDreams to create an "augmented reality" for the press and bloggers gathered here. Most of the computing work was done by the camera attached to the PC via USB, and perched atop the large, flat-screen TV, he said.
Indeed, Friedman's demo was similar to this one, posted by YDreams:
"These are the kinds of TV experiences that are possible," Friedman says. And by thinking ahead, AT&T can keep its pay-TV audience, even in a world when couch potatoes are used to things like iPads and Wii remotes. "[Kids] just don't sit down and veg," he says.
More to AT&T's point, there are possibilities for its service that don't involve a fiber-to-the-home upgrade. "This is no more taxing [on the home's bandwidth] than playing World of Warcraft," Friedman says.
The case for IPTV
Friedman says his job is to look at advanced apps like that and find a way to dumb down the technology so that they can be a mass-market reality. What goes a long way toward making that happen, he says, is the fact that with IPTV, applications and content can be made more immersive, usually with nothing more than a software update or, in the case of an augmented reality program, some hosted supplementary content.
He mused that one app for this kind of interaction could, say, allow NCIS viewers to see a crime scene, look around and manipulate the evidence, and see if they can come to the same conclusions about the crime as the program's main characters.
Jeff Weber, the executive in charge of U-verse at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), calls Friedman's demo "the art of the possible," a phrase he came back to several times when referring to tech demos that aren't ready for consumer consumption, but also aren't very far off technologically. Indeed, AT&T was met with great skepticism early on when it choose IP over a more traditional cable-like approach to delivering TV service. [Ed. note: For a timeline of AT&T's U-verse evolution, see A Look Back at U-verse .]
Whether it's forward-looking stuff like the augmented reality demo or some more practical and more quickly appreciated -- like AT&T's Total Home DVR upgrade -- Weber says such software-driven improvements to AT&T's service are "a real validation that the all-IP strategy worked."
— Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading