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Visualization, bandwidth and 3D

Virtual reality (VR) was born at Silicon Graphics fifteen years ago. And for ten years it has had a commercial presence in Latin America. This emerging technology radically alters the way individuals interact with the computer. And it has great apps on TV.

The main technological developments that in recent years led to the application of virtual reality on television could be summarized in three main aspects: first, display technology, that is, hardware with the ability to manipulate virtual objects at such a speed that it allows the characters to have a more real appearance.

From an engineering standpoint, the more polygons per second computers can handle in real time, the more real the character looks. Current technology makes it possible to manipulate up to ten million polygons per second; which makes, for example, that if we want to see a person dancing, and it is moving in real time, the definition is so real that it makes it possible to apply it directly in the air outlet.

A second important aspect is the bandwidth or ability to put data between disks and memory; and memory, disk, and graphics. Computers today have the ability to move large volumes of information so that the characters on the screen look as if they were real.

The third and most important aspect is the development of 3D applications, some with four or five years of evolution in support of TV companies.

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Television applications have two main aspects: on-air graphics, for their richer visual content, generic for all television stations; and the management of virtual sets, a more cutting-edge technology, where not all television stations have entered; virtual character animation, where a virtual character can interact with a commenter; sports analysis, widely used in the football world cup France'98; and animation of weather conditions.


Achieving the full development of VR possibilities depends on costs. As the machine has more processing capacity and lowers its price, it will become more accessible to television companies and, therefore, will be more successful.

The trend towards decreasing costs is clear, and is closely related to the technology used in equipment. Today you can run virtual sets on machines that cost US $ 200,000 dollars, while three years ago it was required to invest more than two million dollars.

Applications will also be taken down from the platform. Before it was required, for most of these applications, an ONIX, today an OCTANE is needed and, in some cases, even an O2. Applications that today need one or two workstations, we hope to run them by the end of this year on Windows NT computers costing close to US $ 3,000.

However, applications will have to be made more robust. Under no circumstances can you stop sending the TV signal to the air; therefore, applications considered mission critical must be robust.

Computing technologies that take advantage of the graphic visual capacity to enrich the content, have that disadvantage: they are not robust yet, because the technology used is cutting-edge. A lot of work still has to be done to make them more reliable in order to assure broadcasting companies that the risk they are running is minimal.

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The applicability of these new resources on Latin American TV, as in any business, requires an economic model that supports it. Almost all the television stations in the region live by selling their time on the air. To the extent that these technologies can improve the ratings and, consequently, increase the income of these companies, that same investment will allow them to innovate their infrastructures.

While the standard to be used on digital television is definitively established, any purchase can be a risk. Currently, Silicon Graphics sells the ONIX2 platform with the ability to support high definition and most of the application programs we sell can work with any resolution (resolution-free).

That is why TV companies are recommended to invest in large equipment, such as ONIX2, because when we have to work with a larger resolution, for us it will be just another software parameter.

We are prepared to offer high definition solutions with the same equipment with which post-production and virtual sets are currently handled. The safe way for us is to say get started, and when the new standards are defined we will continue to work with the same infrastructure we have.

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