June 22, 2023

Why the launch of augmented reality on Sky is TV’s biggest innovation since video on demand

If you think back to the launch of BBC iPlayer in 2007, the Apple iPhone a year later, even the release of Chat GPT into the wild in 2022… these are events that history remembers as category-defining moments, when a niche and nascent technology moved sharply from the margins to the mainstream.

Why? Because big global companies took big bets on the technology’s future - and people could see the benefits, the backing, and the potential.

I’m of the view that Comcast’s launch of Sky Live, on Sky Glass, will be seen as one of these moments for AR technology.

I see the arrival of augmented reality on the big screen as the biggest innovation in TV since video-on-demand, because it adds integrated interactivity to what has, until now, been a lean-back TV experience.

It it because of DeepAR's world-class team and technology that living room scale AR is now a reality.

With Sky Live, Comcast has just taken a bold and I think decisive step in what’s been dubbed ‘the battle for the living room’ and in major move towards an inevitable convergence of TV and gaming.

Until now, gaming and watching in the living room have been separate, unconnected, disjoined experiences. But AR brings it all together in a way we’ve never seen before. And what’s new, is that this has been done at room-scale, using affordable technology, and for the first time, by a major entertainment business.

As we’ve already seen in social media, AR drives creative innovation. And that will now follow in TV and entertainment, ecommerce and advertising. This technology is the connective tissue that links immersive virtual experiences and traditional TV, and a new creative medium in its own right.

It is very significant that Sky is behind this move. 

Streaming on demand was popularised by BBC iPlayer in the late 2000s and Sky, part of Comcast - an entertainment business with even greater global clout to inspire and incentivise content companies to innovate and invest in AR-enhanced content for Comcast’s Entertainment OS, and beyond.

AR is, for many people, already a mainstream technology.

Every day, hundreds of millions people worldwide experience AR on mobile phones for fun and functionality. Fun face filters, initially a category-defining feature for Snapchat, have since spread across multiple platforms as democratising technology such as ours has made it easy to re-use 3D digital assets on the web. 

More practical use cases such as virtual try-on in ecommerce, and interactive advertising, had further democratised and popularised what was once an expensive, niche technology.

Even Apple has broken convention with the recent launch of Apple Vision Pro. This was more b2b showcase than its typical b2c product launch, but a very high-profile PR event for what’s currently an expensive, niche AR product with few proof of concept use cases and zero bespoke content. But you can bet on Apple taking the Vision line into the mainstream.

Today Sky has gone one better, launching an affordable, market-ready, mainstream product from the get-go, content applications already available, oven-ready for global scale. 

AR brings experiences to life in a completely new way, to create new immersive TV experiences around characters, content brands and advertisers. 

Virtual worlds, or immersive backdrops, are a creative canvas many of us already use daily in video calls. Now, integrated into a TV platform and able to operate at room scale - the opportunities in family entertainment are huge. Imagine your full body placed into a virtual world, such as an action or science fiction movie or trailer. Perhaps a kids’ TV show where the whole family is part of the experience.

Think of the time people spend creating and sharing face and body filters on Snapchat and TikTok, and then imagine that as part of a shared experience, with multiple people, in the living room - whether integrated into a video call, or an enhancement to shared viewing - team face paint, virtual jerseys, mood emojis and more.

And the room-scale body tracking makes it possible to deliver an AR experience at room-scale for the first time on a TV platform. Casual fun games, gesture based games and even AR fitness applications become super-accessible - enabling features like counting reps, aerobics activities and more; whilst video calls with multiple people become smooth & organic, tracking and keeping you in frame while doing other stuff.

All of this points to AR technology on the cusp of mainstream adoption.

It’s both expected by consumers, and totally inevitable, that this uniquely immersive and commercially valuable technology would find its way to the living room. 

Sky Glass may be first, but is by no means the last.

About DeepAR

DeepAR uses deep learning and AI to democratise AR technology: empowering brands, ecommerce companies and advertising agencies to create powerful face and body-centric AR experiences at scale.

Its SDK adds AR functionality to apps and websites with just a few lines of code, while the DeepAR Creator Studio and adaptable templates make it easy to reuse 3D assets created for Snap and Meta on multiple platforms, for multiple products, with multiple creative executions.

DeepAR’s core markets are e-commerce and advertising and live streaming.

AR ads are highly effective as they add interactivity and personalisation, which increases engagement, brand recall, conversion rate - and decreases product return rates. Now, advertisers can now deploy AR creative beyond Snap & Meta. DeepAR’s Creator Studio can leverage creative assets developed for Snap campaigns into HTML5 programmatic campaigns, while its partnership with adtech firms Teads, Mobkoi, Hearst and ResponsiveAds (just a few of multiple partners) offers distribution at scale across the web to a potential audience of 1.9bn people via a network of over 20,000 publishers. 

Ecommerce firms also use DeepAR to deploy virtual try-on across vast product ranges and multiple platforms quickly and cost-effectively. AR ‘try-on’ has become mainstream in e-commerce, reducing returns and boosting purchasing - Shopify reports that AR use increases sales by up to 94%. 

Headquartered in the UK, with a technology team across the EU, DeepAR has thousands of customers, ranging from startups to public companies. Household brands such as Ray-Ban, Ralph Lauren, Shiseido and Coke have used the technology with a community of 30,000-plus creators currently using the platform. Through digital ads and retail try-ons, more than 100 million people worldwide experience DeepAR creative every month.

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