The four reasons to create MPAI

The first reason

As much as VC1, VP8/VP9 and AV1 were developed because MPEG and/or its ecosystem were not providing the solutions that the market demanded, MPAI responds to the need to have usable standards that allow industry and consumers to benefit from technological progress.

The second reason

The body producing standards of such an industrial and social importance should be credible. MPEG is no more, and its unknown SC 29 replacement operates in ISO, an organisation that is lacking governance.

MPAI offers a solid and clear governance that ensures that decisions affecting members are made by the members.

The third reason

The standards produced by the body should be usable. For many years MPEG has struggled with the problem of excellent standards with a complicated IP landscape. Two of the main components of MPEG-H, the latest integrated MPEG project – part 2 video (HEVC) and part 3 audio (3D Audio) – have failed exactly because of that. The hope to see a licence for Part 3 video (VVC) of the next integrated MPEG project – MPEG-I – is in the mists of an unknown future and may well tread the same path.

MPAI’s framework licences, developed and adopted by those who will develop the technical specification, significantly reduces the uncertainties that have plagued the definition of MPEG standard licences.

The fourth reason

We need a North Star guiding the industry in the years to come. Thirty-two years ago, the start of MPEG was a watershed. Digital technologies promised to provide more attractive moving pictures and audio, more conveniently and with more features to the many different and independent industries who were used to handle a host of incompatible audio-visual services. MPEG has delivered much more than promised. By following the MPEG North Star, industry has got a unified technology platform on which different industries can build and extend their business.

MPAI is the new watershed, probably bigger than MPEG’s 32 years ago. Artificial Intelligence technologies already demonstrate that it is possible to do better and more than traditional digital technologies. But there is a difference. In the last 32 years digital audio and video have offered wonders, still they kept the two information streams isolated from the rest of the information reaching the user. With artificial intelligence, audio and video have the potential to seamlessly integrate with the many other information types handled by a device on a unified technology platform. How? Leave it to digital media and artificial intelligence experts, which have started to become an integrated community, to open their respective domains to other technologies.

Forget the past 

It would be nice – and many, I for one, would thank for it – if someone undertook to solve the open problems in the use of digital media standards past. I am afraid this is an intricate problem without a unified point from which one can attempt to find a solution.

But is that a worthwhile effort? One way or another, industry has interoperable audio-visual technologies for its current needs, some even say more than it needs.

Look to the future

Let’s look to the future, because we can still give it the shape we want. The MPAI statutes suggest exactly that when they define the MPAI purpose as developing technical specifications of coded representation of moving pictures, audio and data, especially using artificial intelligence.

The task for MPAI is to call the large community of researchers from industry and academia to reach the goal to develop standards that provide a quantum leap in user experience by doing better and offering more than done so far, and by achieving a deeper integration of information sources reaching the user. The goal can only be achieved if there is a new organisation that has the spirit, the enthusiasm and the effectiveness of the old one to deliver on the new promises.

That is the ideal reason to create MPAI. A more prosaic but vital reason to do it is that standards should also be usable – and MPAI promises to make that possible.