© Qing Zhao/Fraunhofer IIS

Fraunhofer IIS and China Unicom showcased immersive and interactive audio on IPTV

At Smart China Expo in Chongqing, China Unicom and Fraunhofer IIS demonstrated an IPTV set-top box solution incorporating the MPEG-H Audio System.

With 154 million subscribers in 2018, IPTV has become the second-largest TV transmission channel in China. Not only has the way content is consumed changed, user demand for compelling content is also growing. An important selling point in the platform providers’ race for subscribers is personalized interactive and immersive audio, which adds significant value to the entertainment experience.

At Smart China Expo in Chongqing, Fraunhofer IIS and China Unicom presented an IPTV set-top box by Skyworth that supports the MPEG-H Audio System. The device can deliver unparalleled immersive sound with improved realism when rendered on soundbars or headphones, and allows viewers to adjust the sound mix to their preferences. Such features offer users new viewing experiences, including dedicated audio services for the visually impaired, and also create new possibilities for tailored business models for content and platform providers, e.g. premium services offering additional commentaries or sound effects.

In March 2019, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) and the China Media Group (CMB) issued their joint action plan for the industrial development of ultra-high definition video (2019–2022), which underscored 3D Audio as one of the key tasks.

To accelerate the implementation and application of 3D audio technology, Fraunhofer IIS is ideally positioned within the communications and consumer electronics industries. Fraunhofer IIS contributes to the China Ultra-High Definition Video Industry Alliance (CUVA) and to the “Technical requirements and measurement methods for 3D audio performance of TV receiving equipment” standard under the leadership of the China Electronics Standardization Institute (CESI), and provided its technologies to China’s first 8K OB van. At the end of 2018, the China 3D Audio draft standard, based on MPEG-H Audio, was submitted to government authorities.

Internationally, MPEG-H Audio is recommended as the only audio format for VR streaming over 5G networks by 3GPP (release 15) and the only Next Generation Audio technology supported by the Virtual Reality Industry Forum (VRIF) in its Interoperability Guidelines. Since 2017, MPEG-H has been in commercial use in terrestrial UHD broadcasting in South Korea.

“We are committed to bringing Next Generation Audio technologies to all kinds of content production platforms and transmission networks in China. It’s a great honor to expedite this endeavor with the support of China Unicom. It took only two months to complete the integration of MPEG-H Audio into China Unicom’s IPTV system, which was only possible due to the project partners’ superior R&D capabilities and their efficient communication. This will certainly accelerate the actual implementation of MPEG-H Audio in China, and we look forward to more productive cooperations in the future.” said Toni Fiedler, General Manager of Fraunhofer IIS’ representation in China.

Header image: © Qing Zhao/Fraunhofer IIS

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