From August 2006 to February 2007 the IMSATV project carried out its deployment phase with the diffusion by the TW1 / ORF television channel of two main IMSATV immersive applications, namely the IMSATV Tourism Portal / Last Minute Booking application and the IMSATV tourism Magazine / Documentary.
The satellite broadcast was organised using the TW1/ ORF regular service from SES Astra. Users (in groups of 5 persons at a time) were equipped with MHP set-top boxes and received twice a week the IMSATV interactive TV tourism programs. A dedicated broadcast and running of the IMSATV applications using the SATMODE bi-direction satellite connectivity was also successfully tested. The broadcasted "immersive TV applications" enabled viewers to choose either the simple (no animations) Tourism Portal / Last Minute Booking application or the more advanced (with animations) tourism Magazine / Documentary where the viewers were able to "immerse themselves" by "virtually walking" through a geographical area (a country, city, location) they wanted to visit, and by looking at different content such as live views of a place, at meteo information, or at a presentation of a tourism object.
Test questionnaires and interviews were carried out in order to better assess the strength and weaknesses of the IMSATV environment and applications. As a global finding the user feedback showed that the "lighter" content applications were better accepted due to a "smoother" running of such applications on the current market's "very poor hardware configurations" of the Set-Top Boxes, whilst the content "rich applications" showed some well liked features such as content geo-mapping and avatar representations. Such content rich applications would need to wait for the more powerful next generation Set-Top boxes (more processing power and more RAM) expected to reach the market in 2007 and 2008.
From the TV channels vision the deployment phase also illustrated the need to port the existing MHP environment to other market iTV middleware, such as OpenTV, MediaHighway, or MPEG4, in order to reach a much wider end-user base and to secure a wider commercial exploitation. Also very much appreciated by the TV producers was the thematic nature of the IMSATV production tools, enabling very fast prototyping of TV immersive Quiz Shows and of TV immersive Magazines / Documentaries, thus making it a very nice tool to experiment with before actually generating the real immersive TV productions, allowing them to secure very short time production cycles with very fast time to market responses.
A graphical illustration of IMSATV immersive TV applications follows:
An immersive Quiz Show:
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An immersive Tourism Documentary / Magazine:
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