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Kevin Smith

VEIL Technology Inserts Data into Video

11 February 2002

An unlikely means to an end has positioned an American technology company on the edge of the interactive gaming marketplace. The firm could find its platform in high demand in the near future.

Originally hoping to develop technology that would enable children to play interactively with their favorite TV shows, VEIL Interactive Technologies has managed to produce a cutting-edge system that's already being implemented with lotteries and other promotions and could easily be adapted to the sports betting industry.

The company's proprietary and patented technologies offer a universal platform that facilitates the insertion of digital information into a television or video picture, delivering data into virtually every home through the existing television infrastructure.

VEIL, which stands for Video Encoded Invisible Light, resides in the full-video image without signal degradation. The platform goes anywhere that video goes and can be received by optical and/or wired means. The VEIL platform has international capabilities across multiple formats such as NTSC, PAL, and SECAM. VEIL can be encoded live or pre-encoded onto tape for later broadcast. VEIL delivers up to 6,000 bytes of information per second.

Although the technology may sound like something from Star Trek, VEIL Interactive has been busy implementing it since the mid 1980s. The company, which is owned by Ted Koplar, a former independent TV station owner in St. Louis, Mo., was formed in an effort to integrate interactive games with TV programming. Koplar's station, KPLR-TV, successfully produced internationally distributed programs such as "Voltron, Defender of the Universe" and "Denver the Dinosaur."

After years of trial and error and refinement, the company has channeled its resources and now focuses on using the system for promotional campaigns.

The company has already released two versions of its platforms and is working on the next generation of technology.

VEIL 1 enables television viewers to download information from specially encoded commercials and programs. An optical decoder, such as the VEIL card or "SuperCard," is used to read an unobtrusive light signal emitted by the TV picture.

VEIL 1 facilitates one-way communication; information flows from the TV to the decoder once the device is pointed at the screen and activated. When the device receives the VEIL signal, it can cause special interactive opportunities to happen. The interactive opportunities benefit viewers, broadcasters and content providers.

VEIL 2 enables true interactive television. Future generations of set-top boxes or other electronic devices such as PDAs, cell phones or universal remote controls can integrate VEIL 2 decoding chips, facilitating two-way communication between viewers and their televisions.

As an enhancement to communication devices, VEIL 2 enables viewers to purchase items directly, ask for more product or service information from commercials, or interact with programming such as game shows, public affairs surveys and trivia quizzes.

Using the technology, a viewer could watch a music video and simultaneously download the lyrics of the song or be sent to an online ticket broker where he or she could buy concert tickets for an upcoming show.

VEIL 1 was field tested in 2000 when Ericsson and AT&T teamed up for a promotion during the popular TV game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."

For the promotion, a mock Ericsson cellular phone was used during an AT&T commercial to jointly promote their respective Internet-capable wireless telephone handsets and service. The mock cell phone had an LCD display and used the phone's keys as the necessary control buttons to interact with the TV.

Preliminary results indicated that the promotion was a major success and that the ratings share of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" was significantly greater than normal. Highlights from the preliminary results reveal outstanding participation from the recipients of the promotional devices, with a participation rate five times greater than with traditional direct mail pieces.

VEIL is currently working with leading networks, technology partners and content providers to deploy interactive content, commerce opportunities and enhanced TV services to consumers through television.

VEIL Interactive has ventured into the gaming sector as well.

During the last quarter of 200,1 the company conducted an interactive television promotion during the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries' (NASPL) and World Lottery Association's Conference.

During the conference, the company provided attendees staying at the conference's main hotel with uniquely designed electronic game cards that interacted with a 24-hour-a-day program aired in every room on the hotel's closed-circuit channel.

The broadcast offered hotel guests hands-on experience with the technology and its potential capabilities in the lottery markets as well as the chance to interact with a televised promotion that could make the player a winner of any number of prizes during the trade show.

Out of 200 electronic game cards distributed in the convention hotel, more than 35 percent of the participants were driven to respond to redeem for prizes at the VEIL's tradeshow booth or local retailer's hotel venues, including Starbuck's and hotel bar and grill.

Spreading its technology even further in January, VEIL Interactive teamed up with Cybiko, Inc. to demonstrate how the system could be used with Cybiko's devices. Cybiko is a leading developer of hand-held electronic devices for the youth market. The Cy-coder was beta tested at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2002 in Las Vegas.

The Cy-coder, which is being co-developed by VEIL and Cybico, will create a decoding interface linking Cybiko's peer-to-peer networking devices to VEIL enhanced interactive capabilities.

Koplar said the agreement with Cybiko is just the beginning for the endless devices that can be adopted to use VEIL technology.

"During the past year, our company has rigorously focused on optimizing the features and benefits of VEIL's platform to handheld devices," he said. "VEIL now enables the link between Bluetooth, WiFi and IR compatible devices to televisions. Cybiko's expertise in offering wireless, hand-held entertainment perfectly compliments VEIL's affordable and immediate way to interact with any video broadcast."

As VEIL continues to explore more platforms and opportunities for its technology, gaming is likely to play a key role. Koplar feels, as the company explores a more global reach for its product, that more gaming-related implementations will be considered.

See also "Discussion with VEIL Interactive Technologies' Ted Koplar."

VEIL Technology Inserts Data into Video is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith