From 8K to VR, the future is on display at NAB Show 2018

The NAB Show takes place April 9-12 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (NAB)

The “B” in “NAB Show” stands for “broadcasters,” but it might as well refer to “bits.” That seems especially true in this convention’s Innovation Pipeline, a trio of exhibit areas in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s North Hall that will highlight some of the least-analog frontiers of video these days.

For a look at the next generation of TV broadcasting, Futures Park looks like an excellent place to start. Many of its exhibits will address ATSC 3.0, the biggest change in over-the-air broadcasting in the U.S. since the digital-TV transition that kicked off 20 years ago.

Beyond ATSC, the Futures Park will feature demonstrations highlighting technologies like HDR/SDR conversion, IP hybrid systems, synchronous viewing across multiple devices, using analysis of sensor and social media activity and motion-capture systems.

The Ultra HD Forum will be demonstrating end-to-end HDR video delivery and monitoring along with 1080p HDR with HFR and backward compatibility. The VR Industry Forum will be presenting its recently published VRIF Guidelines aimed at promoting interoperability in virtual reality services.

Elsewhere in Futures Park, a group of Korean firms will show how this standard is already delivering UHD 4K video over the air to televisions in that country. And NHK will demonstrate the possibilities of 8K video, though on sets smaller than the 350-inch screen that will dominate this setup, viewers may not care about the extra resolution that this Japanese public broadcaster has been championing since 2014.

The NAB Show’s Startup Loft, meanwhile, will feature a range of smaller firms offering systems to cut down on the time and effort needed to produce and distribute video content.

The two trends dominating in this area, as summed up by Diffusion Group analyst Joel Espelien: “More and more video workflow moving to the cloud” and employing machine learning “to automatically generate VOD assets from live streams.”

Startup Loft exhibits of automated transcription, royalty-free music databases and video indexing should appeal particularly to smaller broadcasters and video services.

Finally, Sprockit will host a group of invited companies selling new services and systems focused on content, advertising and distribution. The screens in question here are likely to be far smaller than any TV, much less the wall-sized display of the NHK 8K exhibit; in one case, the audience won’t interact with a screen at all.

For instance, SpherePlay aims to help broadcasters add virtual-reality experiences to their content menus, Seek wants to get them publishing augmented-reality views to expand on the stories they tell in video, and SpokenLayer provides tools to connect content providers with their audiences via the audio-only interfaces of Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and, sometime later, Apple’s Siri.

Finally, a great many of Sprockit's exhibits will be touting ad-tracking systems built to target and measure commercials, without which few of the video ventures shown off at NAB would go too far in the market.