Emerging Tech


InAiR Gives TV a Breath of Fresh AR

Forget second-screen TV viewing with a tablet or smartphone — so-called second screens are a kludgy, old-school method of extending a show. What’s new? SeeSpace InAiR: The World’s 1st Augmented Television.

SeeSpace InAiR

SeeSpace InAiR is a Kickstarter project that intercepts your TV content stream, analyzes it, then reaches out to the Internet to grab relevant content, which it then displays in navigable layers right on your HDTV screen.

With a 3D HDTV, the display is even better: The new layers of augmented reality content float in space in front of you, creating a “Minority Report-like” experience that you can reach out and manipulate.

How Does SeeSpace InAiR Work?

InAiR is basically a smart HDMI cable in the shape of a hockey puck that you can affix to the rear of your HDTV. Through a USB connection from your cable or satellite TV set-top box, you connect to InAiR (and power it, too). Then, out from the InAiR device, you plug an HDMI cable to your TV.

InAiR has built-in WiFi to connect to your home network.

With a patented content recognition engine, InAiR identifies relevant Internet and social media content with what the viewer is watching and delivers it to the screen in real time. InAiR also lets you search for any term while watching the TV program.

How? InAiR is paired with a simple track-pad app that you can use with Android, iOS and Windows smartphones and tablets.

How Might InAiR Be Used?

In the case of a movie — for example, the James Bond flick Skyfall — InAiR can serve up layers of information about the music, the actors, the movie itself or even information about the product-placement Jaguar in the movie. Along the way, viewers can navigate feeds from their social networks.

For a sporting event — say a golf tournament — a viewer could look at a course or hole map while checking out a player’s stats or active highlights.

During a news show, a viewer could see what a newspaper or writer had published about the topic or — again — check out a relevant social media stream in real time.

Documentaries could let you bring up additional photos or even 3D representations of an object — a satellite, Mars Rover or the human circulatory system, for instance. Plus, using the trackpad app, you could rotate or manipulate the information layer.

Hand Gestures Work, Too

When you pair InAiR with a Microsoft Kinect or Leap Motion device, you can use hand gestures in the air in front of you to manipulate the content on-screen — enabling what InAiR’s makers compare to scenes from the Minority Report film.

Meanwhile, some apps that have already been produced — like a Formula 1 racing app for smartphones — can be projected onto the screen for a multilayered viewing experience. Plus, the InAiR team plans to release a software development kit to let app developers build specific content for even smarter, more enhanced viewing.

The Numbers

InAiR currently has more than 450 backers pledging more than US$50,000 toward a goal of $100,000. With 50-plus days to go (until March 8), the odds look positive for a fully funded project.

The lowest-cost early bird options are already gone, and while there are some stickers and t-shirts to be had, the most likely deal left is the Standard InAiR for $99 or the InAiR 3D version for $149, though at the time of this writing there were also a handful of early-bird options left at $89 and $119, respectively.

The Upsides

The InAiR project is backed by three key people: Nam Do, Dale Herigstad and A-M Roussel. Do is the former CEO and co-founder of Emotiv; Herigastad is a four-time Emmy award winner and thought leader in TV interactive design; Roussel is a serial tech investor and former Microsoft Xbox and Sharp TV investment executive.

The three have clearly come together to cover their bases — the technology, the content and the financing.

Because the hardware prototype is essentially produced and nearly ready for manufacturing, a fully funded project seems to have the key elements in place to deliver a shipping product by September 2014. Early backers who pledge $199 or $249 could actually get an InAiR device by July or August.

One more thing: InAiR is compatible with all network televisions in all countries — live or on-demand.

The Downsides

While the InAiR trio doesn’t currently see any competitors in this space, they do acknowledge that a potential competitive risk is that other large businesses like Apple or Samsung could have similar interfaces in development.

Aside from possible competition, the InAiR team has already locked in partners for product and manufacturing design. They recognize the risk of moving from prototype to manufacturing and then from low volume to high volume manufacturing and shipping.

MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com.

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