NHK experiments with TV interactivity

NHK’s new Hybridcast service combines TV broadcasting technology with the interactive capabilities of the Internet. The Japanese broadcaster hopes to commercialize the new technology and have it in consumers’ homes by next year.

At this year’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories Open Day, NHK showed prototype receivers—developed together with equipment manufacturers—as well as a prototype of the new iTV service. Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, Sharp and Mitsubishi Electric have each developed receivers for the Hybridcast concept.

NHK said the service uses HTML5 applications that can be displayed on a portable tablet. For example, if you’re watching a travel program, you can show where the subjects on TV are walking on a map. And if you’re watching a quiz program, you can take part by answering the questions.

When used with sports broadcasts, updates about game and players can be synchronized with the broadcast timeline and superimposed on the screen. This information can be combined with a service that shows where each player is, creating a more integrated viewing experience.

“A big feature of this system is that content can be created by service providers other than broadcasters,” the network said. “So, it’ll also be possible for new business players to create applications.”

Hybridcast supports a variety of terminals, including TV sets, smart phones and tablets. By using technology that supports interoperability between TVs and various terminal devices, it is possible to implement services that use different screen sizes in different ways. This includes large screens for TV viewing to using hand-held terminals to display information tailored to each individual viewer.

NHK also sees Hybridcast eventually introduced in set-top boxes. “A growing number of broadcasters are showing their approval for this service,” the network said. “This year, Fuji Television and BS WOWOW are giving their support. So we hope we can make this an all-Japan service.”

See Youtube video: