By far my favorite thing at the Cable Show this year has been the NDS concept demo of Surfaces, a next-gen TV experience that puts video on the walls around you. The theory from NDS – a set-top and video software company out of the UK – is that TV doesn’t have to fit into a TV set. Instead, it can be overlaid on modular panels that give you the flexibility to see video in different sizes and combine it with other information and associated content.
In the demo I saw yesterday, NDS showed everything from TV clips to music playlists, news feeds and a baby monitor “live” stream. The demo was controlled from an iPad, but all of the content appeared on the wall in front of us in a variety of layouts. For example, one moment we were watching a movie across an entire wall of seamlessly connected screens, but the next we were interacting with a mosaic of widgets that pushed TV content to a much smaller window off to the side of the viewing area.
NDS also showed off 4K-resolution video on the wall-sized display. (Sourced from YouTube, by the way…) Words don’t do it justice, and unfortunately neither does the photo I took with my cheap point-and-shoot camera. However, suffice it to say, the effect is stunning.
Most of the features in the demo were applications you might expect to see executed on an iPad, but there is a difference when that content and interactivity is writ large for an entire room. It’s also fascinating to be able to move instantly from an immersive video experience – where it literally feels like you’re in a movie theater – to a more social and/or productive one with information pouring in from all sides.
Unfortunately, the NDS demo is just that, a demo. There’s nothing you can buy today, or likely any time in the next five years, unless you want to import your own home theater experts and spends tens of thousands of dollars. However, we all need a glimpse of the future now and then, not to mention a break from trade talk of set-tops and HFC networks. And now that Cisco has acquired NDS, who knows? Maybe we’ll get a real product somewhere down the line. We can certainly dream.