Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Quickening Race in Video-streaming from Cell Phones

Being a TV-producer is getting simpler. Just point your cell phone in the right direction, and moving pictures will be sent to the web in real time. And that's whether you are filming your cousin’s wedding, the final in the local pub quiz or your own poetry readings.

All you need is a small piece of software uploaded to your phone, and an account with an ambitious new company named Qik.

Qik, of Foster City, California, has developed technology to broadcast video live from most mobile phones to the Web. The company offers a free service -- available on an invitation-only basis for three months. There are several thousand registered users from more than 55 countries, according to Qik co-founder Bhaskar Roy.

Broadcasting live over the Web, from cell phones, is such a new activity that its social, political and economic implications are hard to identify. But they might be comparable to what blogging tools -- and the vast proliferation of bloggers -- have done to traditional media over the past few years. Today, newspapers and magazines face unprecedented competition from self-publishing, chiefly in the form of blogs. Live, inexpensive broadcasting by anyone with a cell phone could create a similar big upheaval in mainstream television.

The success of sites like Flickr, Myspace and Facebook proves that a lot of people want to share pictures -- and their whole lives -- with others. A lot of the content on Youtube is also produced by individuals. Live video adds an extra dimension to current personalized media. Instead of documenting what has happened, you invite other to share the experience in real time.

“The good thing is not just the webstream, but also the interaction,” says Mr Roy.
“We can send messages back to the phone. A blogger doing a video interview can ask the audience for questions to put to the person he is interviewing.”

Three former Oracle employees founded the company less than two years ago.

“We knew video was going to be big, and mobile was going to be big, so this was a natural combination”, says Qik CEO Ramu Sunkara.

He sees live video as a way of communicating that will find users in many different situations.
One example is the way he himself used it, when his seven year old daughter woke up in the middle of the night. A screw in her braces had come loose, causing a wire to pierce her flesh.

Using Qik, Mr. Sunkara contacted his orthodontist, who was able to watch what was happening to the child over the Web. The orthodontist then told Mr. Sunkara how to fix the problem.

Qik's technology is still in “alpha-phase”, according to the company. One challenge is to develop the software for more mobile phone models. Today Qik only works with certain Nokia handsets.

Another challenge is to make it work seamlessly in different mobile telephone systems, with different communication protocols and bandwiths.

But the biggest challenge for the company might come from other companies developing similar services. After all, it is not only Qik that sees live video-streaming as a natural step in the evolution of mobile phones.

Among the other entrants in the race is an Israeli start-up, Flixwagon. Judging from the presentation on its webpage, the service seems very similar to Qik's. Both companies let their users archive the videostreams so they can be watched many times or posted on Web sites.

Like Qik, Flixwagon only works with certain Nokia models. However, Swedish Mobycator -- developer of the video-uploading service, MobyPal, for several different mobile phones from Nokia, Samsung, Siemens and Sony Ericsson -- is now working on live streaming versions.

According to Mobycator management, their live streaming service will be out for beta testing within the next six months.

1 comment:

JobSearchAdvisor said...

Recently, Mozilla Labs shows off their Firefox Mobile mockup with an impressive video demonstration of zoomable tabs and optimized screen real estate worthy of your mobile device. It's still just a mockup at this point, but as mobile browsers like Safari on the iPhone continue to innovate, it's nice to see Firefox on board. Hit the jump for a look at the video demo.