60 SITE VISIT InterDigital
FEED visits the labs of a company researching and building the media tech landscape for the next decade
nterDigital doesn’t create products, it creates the future where other products are going to live. The company, based in Rennes,
France, an hour’s drive from Mont- Saint-Michel, specialises in developing technology patents – codecs, formats and processes that can be incorporated into technology actually built by others. Founded in 1972 , the company is deeply embedded in the telecoms sector, and has been a key developer of technologies driving the smartphone revolution and the networks and services around it. As the industry it has traditionally served becomes a leader in content distribution and creation, InterDigital has decided to broaden its scope, and last year acquired Technicolor’s Research & Innovation Unit. The acquisition gives InterDigital a formidable addition to its existing research facilities and the ability to rapidly expand into building future technologies in the intersection of networks and video. The acquisition also gives InterDigital a working relationship with Technicolor’s production services arm, as well as the media industry it serves. FEED was invited to visit the InterDigital labs in Rennes to see first hand some of the work being done and to get a glimpse at technologies that most people won’t get to see for another five years. “Our company was founded two years before the first cell phone call was ever made,” explained Patrick Van de Wille, InterDigital’s chief communications officer. “It was founded to do digital wireless research by a high school dropout stockbroker who loved doing two things – selling stocks and hanging out at the beach on the Jersey Shore near Philadelphia, where he was from. He had this idea that he could come up with a device that would enable him to sell stock from the beach.” The company stockbroker, Sherwin Seligsohn, founded was originally called International Mobile Machines Corporation. It started researching digital telephony back when anything like a mobile phone was “essentially a walkie talkie”. Throughout the rise of digital mobile technology, InterDigital has been steadily developing advanced technologies used
in digital cellular and wireless products, including 2G, 3G, 4G and IEEE 802-related products and is a big researcher in 5G and, according to the company, is a source of more than 30,000 contributions to key global standards. “InterDigital was like the mammals at the time of the dinosaurs. Now a lot of those giants don’t exist and we’ve evolved,” said Van de Wille during our visit. CLONE WARS FEED was allowed access to the research labs and scientists brought over to InterDigital from Technicolor. The new InterDigital Immersive Lab is focused on developing immersive media technologies, including virtual and augmented reality. light field imaging and real-time VFX. Tied up in this nexus of next-generation imaging are technologies that are assuredly the future of communications and entertainment. (Read our discussion with InterDigital Immersive Lab director Gaël Seydoux on p66.) On show in the Immersive Lab was technology that had been employed by Technicolor in its visual effects services, but might now serve as the basis for all future digital interaction. The lab has developed technology for rapidly prototyping a digital duplicate of a human subject. The resulting realistic asset can be animated and manipulated after the fact in the real time.
ROAD TRIP InterDigital invited analysts and journalists to tour its Rennes headquarters
NOW THAT WE’VE MOVED TO INTERDIGITAL, SHORT TERM IS FIVE YEARS AND LONG TERM – I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT LONG TERM IS
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