The industry reaction
After the NAB show, Faroudja reported that his company's technology demonstration in a Las Vegas hotel suite produced "a lot of very positive feedback" from audience members in the high-end video business, including broadcasters and cable and satellite operators.
However, still missing are "responses from streaming Internet companies and those with Skype-like teleconferencing technologies. We will know more [about the target market] after we attend the Streaming Media East conference in New York in May."
Asked about potential business and technology hurdles, Envisioneering's Doherty said, "If [the technology is] as simple as Yves suggests, not many. It would be a slam dunk for satellite, wireless, fiber, cable, anything." Asked who would embrace this first, Doherty predicted that bandwidth constrained back-hauls -- broadcast, cable, satellite, and cellular -- will benefit most.
Highly dependent on content
Tom McMahon at Del Rey Consultancy, a video expert, pointed out that the industry still needs to see how it works in a variety of scenarios -- fast motion video, noisy images, video in lower resolution, video streamed at a lower bit rate -- and how much gain it could achieve.
He noted that "a bunch of experts" discussed similar layered approaches a decade ago when the industry was still developing the H.264 standard. Dolby Laboratories worked on a similar scheme, he said, but the technology was never implemented. "The issue [of such an approach] is that it is highly dependent on content." However, he quickly added that service providers intent on bandwidth conservation and delivery of better quality video at lower bit rates are hungry for a technology such as Faroudja's. It's also applicable in smart encoder designs.
Satellite operators such as DirecTV, operating in a controlled environment, might be interested, said McMahon. Even next-generation set-tops or TVs/media boxes from Google or Apple could take advantage of meta-data offered in a support layer such as Faroudja's, he added.
In the end, market acceptance will depend on how much investment is needed for Faroudja's system (pre- and post-processing, and the inclusion of a support layer).
Jon Peddie pointed out that one of the initial hurdles in garnering market acceptance is "getting people to 'grok' it." He called it a "double-edged sword," because it is "black magic until Yves goes into detail." That's something Faroudja "doesn't want to do with anyone who isn't willing to commit to it. Anyone selling IP has to walk that balancing act: disclosure vs. trust/risk."
Peddie predicts that telecoms wanting to compete with cable and satellite should be early to embrace Faroudja's video bit rate reducer.
Faroudja explained that the processing power necessary for Faroudja Enterprises' process is roughly a "doubling of H.264." Most of the complexity, he noted, is in the pre-processor side.
In the technology demonstration, Faroudja used a multiple-unit rack system including off-the-shelf GPU boards. "We probably used 10 to 15 percent of the hardware [processing power] we had."
Asked if the technology is applicable to the consumer market -- including TVs, mobile phones, tablets -- he said it will be in the future, if it's licensed to chip vendors. However, he added that the process's present form isn't yet consumer-ready.
Faroudja hasn't exactly decided on the company's business model. Options he's considering include making the technology available in hardware, software, or through licensing. He said his company can do licensing agreements with system vendors, license IPs to silicon, or make its software downloadable on customers' hardware.
Faroudja Enterprises, which has developed its latest technology in complete secrecy over the last year, already has two patents granted and six more pending.
Faroudja's reputation as a veteran inventor over age 65 helped grease the skids for the patents. Faroudja was surprised that his patent applications were entitled to accelerated examination. Briefly assuming the aspect of an absent-minded professor, he said, "I didn't know that."
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times