Nothing on telly? There will be

NETWORK `Tele-multimedia' could soon be available on your own TV, writes Steve Homer

Multimedia, the combination of text, images, graphics, sound, animation and sometimes video, is beginning to move out on to wires. On corporate networks, on ISDN, on cable-TV systems, even on the ordinary telephone line, interactive multimedia is spreading everywhere.

The problem of "tele-multimedia" is the amount of data that has to be sent around. Sending text via a modem on a telephone line is straightforward because the files are small. So is a simple animation or still image. Sending a file containing high-quality sounds is considerably more difficult: it can take more than five minutes to send a half-minute audio clip. And sending TV-quality video takes forever. More than two hours for one minute ... Tele-multimedia requires the designer to use some restraint.

Probably the most widely used form of tele-multimedia is the World Wide Web. "By its very nature, the WWW, with its combination of text and graphics, is multimedia," says Henry Ritson of UUNET Pipex. "Until the development of the WWW, the Internet was nearly all text-only."

Although the depth of multimedia and interactivity on the Web is still generally low, it is developing rapidly as animation and sounds are added to many Web sites. "At the moment, Web pages can be enhanced with logos spinning round and a small clip from the chairman's speech," says Mr Ritson. "But in four years' time we will probably look back and laugh at how basic it all is."

Companies are wondering how they should best use the Web but, according to Andy Mitchell, an account director at Digital Communications Ogilvy & Mather, they have a long way to go. "Most people's experience of the WWW is crushing disillusionment with the mediocre stuff in 2-D they see there. Many `good' sites look like they have been created by Sylvester Stallone - lots of flash and bang but no story. What companies need to create are sites with true meaning and benefits for the visitor."

This, given the current technical restraints, is difficult. "To make an audience come to your site you can use a lot of interactivity and a lot of multimedia," Mr Ritson says. "The downside is the more you put on, the slower it will take to download. So you design the page to make sensible use of the resources."

Mr Mitchell believes things will soon change. "Within the next five years, the convergence of technology will deliver really high bandwidth multimedia to the public in ways that are already familiar to them. For example, a TV may be linked to a set-top box, which is a sophisticated computer connected into a high-speed digital cable system. Customers will not care about that; they will just notice more information and services available on their television sets."

There are ways round the problem, even today. On Demand Information supplies training and other material to customers over digital ISDN lines, which send data at roughly five times the speed of today's fastest modems. With customers connecting straight into On Demand's own computers, they get very fast throughput.

"This means multimedia applications are not a problem," says Peter Jones, managing director of the company's applications division. "Most of our applications use images, animation, text and sound. These can all be compressed well and sent over the lines." Video still causes indigestion, so On Demand will load clips that might be useful directly on to a customer's computer."

Even using basic technology and a bit of inspiration, it is amazing what you can do with tele-multimedia. Compuserve's Worlds Away is an online chat system that allows users to adopt personalities through avatars, surrogate graphic characters which appear on screen. As people "talk" (by typing on their keyboards) words appear in speech bubbles. In the Worlds Away city there are hundreds of rooms where you can look up information and meet people. While there are only 80 avatars, each has several poses and changes profile as it turns around. These images are sent out on CD- Rom. Dedicated Worlds Away users can upload their own images to be used as their avatar's head.

There is no doubt we will get more and more used to interactive tele- multimedia delivered to our homes and businesses. At present, the technology lags behind users' demands, but it will surely catch up.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

    £37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

    Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

    £25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

    £16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones