Hello and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your business guide to the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we explore why Google is going after Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. Also: a new Chromecast, better WebAR and synthetic photos.
The story behind Google’s Project Caviar
Google is doubling down on open media: the company is preparing to take on Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision with a pair of royalty-free formats for HDR video and 3D audio, I was the first to report yesterday.
Known internally as Project Caviar, it represents one of the most significant efforts to get the industry to embrace open media formats since Google began investing in video codec development more than a decade ago.
- Project Caviar is based on HDR10+ for video and the Alliance for Open Media’s Immersive Audio Container format for 3D audio.
- Google wants to bolster both of these efforts with a new umbrella brand that can better compete with the Dolby brand.
- The company is looking to establish a dedicated forum for implementers to get streaming services and hardware manufacturers to adopt the formats and brand.
- Project Caviar will also be used to bring more immersive media experiences to YouTube and give people a way to capture and share HDR video and 3D audio without professional tools and equipment.
This isn’t Google’s first rodeo in open media. The company acquired codec maker On2 in 2009 and later opened up On2’s video codecs. Google also played a major role in the creation of the Alliance for Open Media and the subsequent development of the AV1 video codec.
- Google has long positioned its investment in open media as an altruistic effort, arguing that streaming needs royalty-free formats to be as successful as the open web.
- Of course, the company also had financial incentives to support open codecs: MPEG LA, the group responsible for licensing the H.264 video codec, initially signaled that it might charge for free streaming services like YouTube royalties for using H.264. from 2016.
- Following Google’s release of an open alternative, MPEG LA announced that free services would never have to pay a penny to use H.264.
- In other words: even though Google failed to replace H.264 with open alternatives, it still used the threat of a royalty-free format to extract concessions from MPEG LA.
The situation is a bit different for Project Caviar. Dolby has chosen to make Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision free for all streaming services, and essentially uses Netflix and its competitors as brand ambassadors. So why does Google care that Dolby charges hardware makers a few bucks to add Atmos and Vision to their devices?
- One reason is Google’s own hardware business. The company makes phones, speakers, headphones, and streaming devices, and it doesn’t really want to pay royalties for every device it sells.
- This is especially true for low-end devices, which are usually sold at cost. An industry source told me that the license fees for Dolby Digital and Dolby Vision are $2 for a cheap set-top box.
- It’s probably no coincidence that Google’s new Chromecast HD, which costs $30, supports HDR10+ but not Dolby Vision.
- There’s also the impact of these fees on the wider Android device ecosystem: at present, only Xiaomi has adopted Dolby Vision for some of its handsets. A widely adopted alternative to Dolby Vision could help other Android device makers control costs.
There is also the impact these royalties may have on future innovations. Currently, Atmos is mostly added to soundbars and wireless headphones, and Vision is mostly used to boost Hollywood fare on big-screen TVs.
- However, Sonos has already been rumored to have high-end Atmos-enabled speakers, and it’s likely that 3D audio will become a big part of home listening across a wide range of products.
- Google also wants to push Project Caviar as a way to popularize HDR video capture, which requires broad buy-in from mobile device makers.
- Finally, there’s the promise of AR and other forms of spatial computing, which not only require 3D audio, but could also one day benefit from HDR and other forms of immersive video.
In other words: Google wants to save money on these formats today, but it also wants to make sure Dolby doesn’t become a major headache for its business in the future.
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Google officially launches Chromecast HD
Anticipating its own hardware release event in the fall, Google today officially introduced the Chromecast with the Google TV HD streaming adapter. The device, which I first told you about in January, is essentially a 1080p version of the existing Chromecast with Google TV streamer. It even comes with the same remote.
The big news: Google is selling the device for just $29.99, which puts it squarely in the inflation gadget category.
- The device has a new chipset capable of playing AV 1 video, but again, it only comes with 8GB of storage space for apps.
- Chromecast HD will ship with Android 12, while the 4K version is still on Android 10.
- However, Jess Bonner, Chromecast product manager, told me this week that an update for Chromecast 4K is coming “in the near future.”
Niantic brings its location-based AR technology to the web
Following its acquisition of web-based AR startup 8th Wall in March, Niantic has now combined its own development tools with 8th Wall’s WebAR SDK. The result, which the company calls Lightship VPS for Web, will allow developers to create lightweight AR experiences that can be anchored to specific locations and don’t require users to download dedicated apps.
- In addition to allowing people to unlock AR experiences in a store or inside a stadium, Niantic’s visual positioning system also includes detailed 3D scans of tens of thousands of notable locations, including sculptures, buildings, etc.
- This allows developers to create AR experiences that interact with their environment with “centimeter-level precision,” as Kjell Bronder, senior director of product management for the augmented reality platform, told me earlier this year. company geodata.
“At Niantic, we believe the real-world metaverse should inspire people to explore and connect with the world around them,” CEO John Hanke said in a press release. “We can’t wait to see what location-based AR experiences our developer community will create with this new tool.”
In other news
YouTube plans to start sharing revenue with Shorts creators. The video service aims to expand its creator program to include shorts early next year.
Spotify is adding audiobooks to its catalog. The music service offers for sale more than 300,000 titles from major publishers; Spotify is also considering subscription and ad-supported options for audiobooks.
Logitech will sell its cloud gaming handheld for $300 at launch. The device has a 7-inch display and will offer access to Xbox Cloud Gaming, Steam Link, and NVIDIA GeForce Now, and will retail for $350 after its launch discount.
The theme park industry is rediscovering virtual reality. Some ride operators have also started experimenting with AR glasses.
Why Snap shut down Zenly. Snap didn’t want to sell the social mapping platform and instead decided to unplug it, according to insiders.
Warner Music names YouTube executive Robert Kyncl as its new CEO. Kyncl was previously YouTube’s chief commercial officer and led the service’s original content initiatives.
Sony believes in Hollywood-style windowing for PS Plus. PlayStation Indies head Shuhei Yoshida told an industry event that the company wants to continue charging for new titles before they’re available to subscribers to its PS Plus service, much like Hollywood l did with films that premiered in theaters before becoming more widely available.
77% of gamers play multiplayer games. This is just one item in Unity’s new multiplayer report, which the company released this week.
Now this is interesting: Getty Images has banned AI-generated media from its service. Creators are not allowed to upload images made with DALL-E, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion or similar services.
“There are genuine copyright concerns about the releases of these models and unresolved rights issues regarding the images, image metadata and the people in the images,” said Craig Peters, CEO of Getty Images. , to The Verge about this milestone.
Maybe Peters was also turned off by AI-generated images with watermarks that look strangely like those of Getty and its competitor Shutterstock, suggesting that these stock photo sites are used as training data.
However, Getty’s decision makes me wonder what we’ll see first: a stock photo site that only hosts AI-generated images, or an AI stock photo site where you can buy training data in bulk to feed your algorithms with copyright-free photos?
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