The software is still in the early stages of development and kinks still need to be worked out – both for users learning to operate the system and for the technology. Many producers – even those who work for the company – still have trouble finding the right audio levels, for example, and there are sometimes slight delays between feeds. There can also be a wide range of video quality during a single show, since the Operator 11 software adjusts the quality of the video feed from one participant to another depending on the speed of their Internet connection. Platas says another challenge will be scalability: All the switching is handled on the server side, and, with increased participation, the load could get heavy.
“To do this right, you want adequate capacity and adequate quality of service,” says Jon Peha, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Interactive video is more demanding than other forms of streaming media, he says. Good video requires a much higher data rate than streaming audio, and is less tolerant of data loss. Unlike video sites such as YouTube, which download a video before showing it, Operator 11’s model can’t tolerate significant delays without destroying the flow of a show.
The company, however, seems committed to overcoming all the potential difficulties. In addition to addressing the technical issues, they are working on producing sample shows to act as guides for fledgling producers.
Meanwhile, Platas says, the company plans to release an updated version of the Operator 11 player and studio applications within the next few weeks. Harris hopes that, eventually, targeted advertising will make the site profitable.