As we wind down 2008 with glum economic news coming from all sources, it seems fitting to try to spread a bit of cheer about the state of our industry. So, here are ten reasons design engineers involved with video and imaging can be hopeful looking to 2009 and beyond:
1 - 3-D is coming!
From next week's nationwide U.S. demo of 3-D football (coinciding with the CES show in Vegas), to the looming fight over standards for home delivery of 3DTV, to the appearance of "3-D ready" TV sets, 3-D appears to be the next big thing in consumer video. (See 3-D college football championship in theaters Jan. 8.)
2 - Video analytics is still in its infancy
We're just beginning to see cars with lane change warnings and other consumer applications, like smile detection. The true explosion of video analytics is yet to come (see Video analytics, from swords to plowshares.)
3 - Cameras everywhere
Between the ever-expanding surveillance camera market, the cell-phone led charge to build cameras into every portable device, and the need for cameras as the starting point for video analytics, the camera business keeps growing.
4 - User generated content
The YouTube phenomenon keeps expanding, and with it, the need to make the videos people are watching.
5 - Internet TV
The long predicted marriage of the Internet with television -- something people have been talking about since the mid-90s -- is finally occurring. TV manufacturers are building IPTV capacity into their TV sets, but the walled gardens each manufacturer is creating are bound to transform, likely requiring customers to buy even newer TVs or STBs down the road.
6 - Flat panel perfection
Despite the overwhelming popularity of flat panels for big-screen TVs, their image quality still doesn't match good old CRTs. Ultimately something akin to the sadly doomed SED effort will improve upon today's flat panel technologies sufficiently to get consumers interested.
7 - Codecs continue
Is H.264 the end of the line for codec improvement? Of course not.
8 - Home networking
With most of today's cable-TV services, if you want to start watching a pay-movie in the living room and finish in the bedroom, you'd have to pay twice for the same movie and then spend ten minutes fast-forwarding in the bedroom to find the spot where you left off. Clearly there's room for improvement, and several technologies now appear poised to bring what used to require custom installation to the masses.
9 - Pervasive picture frames
Digital cameras have been around for quite a while, but only now are digital picture frames becoming pervasive, as LCD screen prices have plummeted. Having established the consumer desire for these independent display devices, there's plenty of room for growth and innovation.
10 - Transcoding
The proliferation of codecs and codec profiles leads to a growing need for devices that conveniently, seamlessly and quickly transcode, for portable viewing, sharing, and many other applications. As standalone (non-PC) video devices proliferate, so will the need to transcode.
Despite the immediate downturn, when you look at the "big picture" of video and imaging technology, the challenges and opportunities listed above are really just the tip of the iceberg of things to come. Happy 2009!