Toolbox: Hardware & Software News for the Week of Dec. 16, 2013

NEP Opts for Grass Valley’s K-Frame Switcher Platform
HILLSBORO, Ore.–NEP, a leading provider of mobile and fixed broadcast facilities in the U.S and U.K., has purchased 26 Grass Valley K-Frame modular video processing engines to be used with Kayenne and Karrera Video Production Centers to upgrade more than 30 of its outside broadcasting (OB) trucks across their fleet. NEP will take delivery of the K-Frames over the next three years, through to 2016.

NEP’s facilities are widely used to broadcast many high-profile events, including the Emmy®Awards, NASCAR, and the U.S. Open golf tournament. Its new Grass Valley K-Frames will primarily cover live sporting events and entertainment productions, including the upcoming NBA All-Star Game in February 2014. As part of their upgrades, NEP will also allocate 5 Kayenne Classic frames to their fleet in the U.K., adding Karrera panels for use on locations, including Wimbledon in June 2014. NEP and Grass Valley have been working together for several years, and this latest announcement further solidifies the relationship between the two companies. It also strengthens Grass Valley’s unique position as an innovative leader in the live sports and entertainment production markets.

Built on a modular approach, K-Frame is ideally suited for mobile production environments. It measures only 7 RU high with up to 5 M/Es (the optional 9 M/E frame is only 14 RU high), making it the perfect choice where space is of paramount concern. With easy configuration and setup, K-Frame drives a more unified workflow inside NEP’s OB trucks so operators can focus on creativity and more compelling shots. K-Frame is compatible with both SD and HD formats, with full 3G 1080p50/60 HD support, to help NEP broaden its customer base. And with K-Frame’s easy-to-use engineering configuration, NEP’s clients can quickly customize the system for every show.

At IBC 2013, Grass Valley demonstrated the latest version of K-Frame, which includes internal video clip storage and playback, greater macro flexibility, and an M/E multi-previewer function. Since its release in June 2013, K-Frame has been installed in more than 75 production facilities worldwide.

Google deal adds to company’s robotics toolbox
By Michael Liedtke, Technology Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google may be gearing up to build robots that resemble props in science-fiction movies as the ambitious Internet company expands into yet another technological frontier.

To gather the expertise and research it needs, Google has purchased eight companies that specialize in robotics this year. The acquisitions are being assembled into a new robotics division headed by Andy Rubin, who oversaw Google’s development of Android, now the world’s leading mobile operating system.

Google Inc. added more pieces to its growing toolbox of robotics late last week with the purchase of Boston Dynamics, a military contractor that has raised intrigue by releasing videos of its inventions in recent years. Those inventions include a four-legged robot capable of galloping past Olympian sprinters and a jumping contraption that can leap onto tall buildings. Another video of a creepy-looking four-footed machine has been watched more than 15 million times since it was posted on Google’s YouTube site five years ago.

Besides designing animal-like robots, Boston Dynamics also has been working on humanoids as part of a $10.8 million contract with the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Boston Dynamics’ links to the U.S. military has inspired comparisons of its work with the ruthless cyborgs that overthrew humans in the “Terminator” movies. Founded in 1992 by former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Marc Raibert, Boston Dynamics says it is dedicating to “changing your idea of what robots can do.”

Google confirmed the Boston Dynamics purchase on Monday, but declined to reveal any other information, including the sales price.

Rubin, though, evidently views the Waltham, Mass., company’s technology as a key to Google’s robotics plans.

“The future is looking awesome,” Rubin wrote about the acquisition in a message posted on his Twitter account late Friday, after news of the deal leaked out.

Google revealed Rubin is running its new robotics arm earlier this month, shortly after Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos used a segment on “60 Minutes” to announce that the Internet’s biggest retailer is developing a fleet of automated drones called “quadricopters” to deliver merchandise to customers’ doorsteps.

That has led to speculation in the media that Google hopes to build robots that would automate manufacturing and distribution center jobs currently handled by humans. Other possibilities include housekeeping robots or automated caretakers for the elderly.

Some of the other robotics companies acquired by Google have been dabbling in humanoids and other technology that could be used for loading and unloading delivery trucks. One company bought by Google, Bot Dolly, makes a robotic camera system deployed in the making of a recent science-fiction film, “Gravity.” Other robotics companies sold to Google this year are Schaft, Industrial Perception, Meka, Redwood Robotics, Autofuss and Holomni.

Google has only said that it considers its robotics division to be a “moonshot.” The Mountain View, Calif., company applies that description to high-risk projects that have little to do with its main business of Internet search and online advertising. These gambles also typically take years to pay off, to the chagrin of investors who prefer that the company curb its spending on far-flung ventures and focus on its main areas of expertise.

Other Google moonshots still evolving include Internet-connected glasses, autonomous cars and Internet-beaming balloons. All of those were hatched in Google X, a secretive lab overseen by co-founder Sergey Brin. The robotics division is being run separately in a Palo Alto, Calif., office located a few miles north of Google’s headquarters.

Android, a technology that Google picked up through another acquisition eight years ago, also was once considered a wacky idea before it became a key piece of the company’s strategy for connecting its services on smartphones and tablets. The software, which Google gives away to device makers, is now running on more than 1 billion gadgets.

Rubin, 50, stepped down as Android’s leader nine months ago, spurring questions about what he might do next for Google.

Rampant Design Tools expands library for VFX artists
ORLANDO, Fla.–Rampant Design Tools has launched three drag-and-drop Quicktime elements for VFX artists and editors: Rampant LensFX, GrungeFX Cinematics, and Rampant Bokeh Opticals  2.

All of Rampant’s new elements were hand designed by the Rampant team and created using the new Black Magic Cinema Camera to ensure ultra HD quality imagery.

Rampant LensFX is a collection of 380 real lens flares and light effects for video. All created using Black Magic’s BMCC, these ultra high quality lens flares quick and easily add a lens flare effects to the timeline.

GrungeFX Cinematics adds over 200 dirt, grime and grunge effects to your video projects.

Rampant Bokeh Opticals 2 delivers 88 stunningly beautiful Bokeh effects to your video projects.

Samsung, LG to unveil 105-inch curved TVs
By Youkyung Lee, Technology Writer
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. said their curved TVs will get bigger and sport the sharpness four times the regular HD television sets.

The world’s two largest TV makers will display ultra-HD TVs with curved screens that measure 105 inches diagonally in Las Vegas next month, they said in separate statements Thursday.

The South Korean TV makers began selling curved TV sets earlier this year made with advanced displays called OLED measuring 55 inches.

The upcoming premium TVs set will be made of LCD panels packing more than 11 million pixels, 5,120 pixels wide and 2,160 pixels high. But not much video content is available for the ultra-HD TV sets.

TV makers hope the launch of the new hardware technology will fuel growth of content. Japan’s Sony Corp., among the industry players betting that the ultra-HD images will become the new standard, is working on both gadgets and movies in ultra-HD, also known in the industry as 4K.

Asian TV makers are trying to excite shoppers with new display technology. But limited video content in ultra-HD resolution and price tags will likely limit appeal. Samsung and LG kept mum on prices.

Roger Faxon appointed Chairman of Mirriad
LONDON–Mirriad, a leader in in-video advertising for the skip generation, has appointed former CEO of EMI and top Lucasfilm and Columbia Pictures executive Roger Faxon as its non-executive chairman.

Faxon, who successfully transformed and sold EMI last year, is currently a board member of ITV and advisor to many media businesses and brings global leadership experience from the TV, film, and music industries to Mirriad. Faxon will work closely with Mirriad’s founder and CEO, Mark Popkiewicz, as the company expands its mission to revolutionize advertising for the skip generation.

“Anyone in the content business knows we are facing some very big challenges,” Faxon said.  “Big problems need big solutions and Mirriad has developed the only technology that creates native advertising opportunities for brands at scale. I’m delighted to help Mirriad realize its goal of uniting the world’s greatest content with the world’s most prestigious brands.”

Mirriad’s ad tech platform features Academy Award-winning computer vision technology that enables seamless, authentic brand integrations. For brands, Mirriad’s sophisticated analytics transform abstract brand integration into a measurable, scalable, trackable ad unit. For content owners, it offers a new revenue stream with complete editorial control.

“Roger’s world-class track-record in entertainment is critical as we continue to dramatically increase the number of content owners, distributors, brands, and agencies to benefit from using our platform,” said Popkiewicz. “His understanding of popular culture and the way it’s monetized in the advertising world will prove invaluable to us.”

Research has proven that consumers are more likely to recall brands that they see within programs or video that they choose to watch. In the next five years, experts predict that television-driven purchases, also known as T-commerce, could completely reverse the decline in TV marketing spend.

Mirriad is working with brands such as Coca-Cola, Pizza Hut, Yahoo, Dove and Pepsico.

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