Tom Wolzien Gets Patent for Video Call Center: New Breed of Television?

By Steve Anderson July 01, 2014

Television has seen better days. With a host of new entertainment options emerging and competition everywhere—not to mention advertising spending increasingly going toward mobile and online sources—it's getting tougher for television to make the kind of impact it once did. But a new patent for media executive and inventor Tom Wolzien may go at least some of the way in giving television back its old spark: U.S. Patent 8,767,031, the Video Call Center (VCC).

With the VCC, television shows can actually be built around video calling, allowing callers watching the show to call in, yet show as much video as is desired on both sides. Essentially, it's like a television call-in show, just driven by the Web and programs like Skype and Web-based real time communications (WebRTC) tools. The system can handle multiple calls at once, according to its inventor, which is an essential step for any television show that focuses on live callers. The system can be established in a production facility that handles both inbound and outbound transmission, as well as operations that happen at the studio level.

But where VCC really shines is that it doesn't specifically need a control room in which to operate. The on-air personality can actually handle much of the call flow, a development which is said to be fairly common in talk radio, but is generally unheard of in a television environment. Automated tools take over for video switching and audio mixing, which in turn allows the host to focus on content while the system tools take over for the creation of the broadcast.

Oddly, this is not the first time such an idea has made an appearance. The idea actually goes back as far as 1998 when Stefan Avalos' film “The Last Broadcast” incorporated Internet relay chat (IRC) as a mechanism for a small-time cable show, and used such a mechanism not only to allow users to call in—the IRC posts were run through a text-to-speech converter and broadcast along with the show's footage—but as a plot device for setting up where said cable show would go on location, ultimately for the last time, when it went in search of the Jersey Devil. There are clear differences between the two, of course, but using the Internet as a medium for a television show's production goes back almost as far as wide use of the Internet.

Additionally, this has some noteworthy issues in the frame of automation; while the idea of factory workers being replaced by robots has been around for some time, the idea of behind-the-scenes television production falling prey to the same processes is likely something few had considered. Granted, this really only works to address behind-the-scenes folks involved in call-in show production, and call-in shows are a comparatively slim part of the overall television landscape, but this might just be a start to more complete automation of television production, a move that may prove necessary if advertising spending continues its seeming migration to mobile and online advertising.

But still, this is a potentially exciting new option in the field, and the VCC system may well give rise to a new breed of home entertainment. Only time will tell just what changes materialize in the field as a result of this, but said changes are likely to be pronounced.




Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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