At the International World Fair in Paris, August 25th,1900, the term “television” was introduced to the world. I wasn’t around then but I can imagine that the resolution wasn’t all the great and the number of channels was quite limited but no matter. The world of instant home entertainment was born and it’s been on quite a ride since then.
Over the years I have seen a great many advances and developments in TV. When I was but knee high to a grasshopper there were only three channels. Well, actually, there was one: whichever channel our Dad was watching. Those of us with over four decades of experience can perhaps remember that the TV came complete with the channel dial, the UHF dial (what WAS that dial for anyway?) and the rabbit ears. Young ones, rabbit ears were spires of aluminum that jutted out from the top of the TV and needed to be bent, extended, manipulated, twisted, and rotated in hopes of snagging a slightly less fuzzy image. No, we did not have a remote in which we could speak our request and voila, instant reruns of Family Ties (that’s a TV show. Google it). And, no, the world at that time wasn’t in black-and-white. I was alive when the world was in color. TV was great! TV was the center piece of the family room or the living room and what was on TV was spectacular, entertaining and real-time. There was no instant replay. There was no rewind at least until “beta” hit the marketplace.
With the introduction of the beta format, the home had a way to watch, record, rewind, fast forward and play the entertainment of our choosing provided that our parents bought the movies on beta we wanted to see. Yes, younger generation, we had machines that ingested cassettes and those machines were attached to the family television. And we had just one television (maybe two) for everyone and we shared. Beta gave us better resolution to watch our movies than we ever had but the machines themselves were the size of a foot locker and the tapes were expensive. What to do? VHS came round to answer that question. VHS overtook beta as the video watching machine of choice. It was easier and cheaper to produce both the machines and the cassettes even though at the onset VHS machines were crazy expensive. We just managed to finish paying off our first VHS machine just last year. Anyway, the home had TV, a VHS, and then came cable and then came satellite TV, all of which were shaped and molded to enhance and expand our television watching experience. In-home instant entertainment was coming into its own. The technology continually improved and the number of channels continued to expand but it needed to adapt to the ever-changing pace of the world. It needed to become agile, technologically advanced and that gave rise to where we are today.
Now we have TV on our wrists, in our hands, on our computers, on our walls and in our cars. TV is everywhere but is that where the TV user experience is headed? Not from where I sit. As an expert in all things UX and television, I share with you my vision of UX of television:
1) Content will continue to be king but the type of content viewed by you, will be controlled by you. You will be able to change the viewing order of the content you want to see. You will become your own television network executive picking and choosing which shows you want to see and only those shows you want to see, when they play and which days they play. You will be able to opt out or block not just shows but entire networks and genres if you so choose. You will, by picking content, will also cause more of your preferred content to be shared or presented to you. You will also be able to fund productions you like and may even have the chance to star in a movie or TV show yourself (that’s a project of mine called “ActandStar”. Please reach out to me for more details). You will also be able to choose what kind of ads reach you and their frequency. You will receive real-time deals and they will display on your wearable tech as you drive, run, glide, or walk through your city or town, based on your TV watching history and preferences. You will also be able to set a geofence to enable or disable these features and these will be saved in your TV, your car, and your wearable tech (this is another project of mine) or saved to your home-based computer network or even in the "cloud".
2) You will interact not only with other viewers watching the same content but you will be able to “throw” content at each other. A virtual home theatre will be made available (visible & projected or AR) and if you like a show or a movie, you will be able to use gestures to send, share, comment, rate or even delete content from your TV. You think the latest episode of Mountain Monsters in Space is wicked cool, you’ll be able to capture and throw that show to friend who has a virtual avatar sitting on your couch (this will be great with AR or "Augmented Reality"). If she doesn’t like what’s being thrown at her, she can backhand it out into space never to be seen by her again. Imagine walking into your living room and seeing icons of your shows hovering in front of your TV (from the dual cameras and projectors integrated into your TV’s front-facing panel) waiting for you to gesture at each or all of them and to interact with them. Take one icon and throw it out because you’ve already seen it or you can see the rating of that show hovering right below the icon itself. You can reorder the hovering icons, hide one or two from your parents (ha!), set your schedule or just start playing them, or set a time so you can grab a bite and then sit down to Netflix and chill.
3) You will be able to distribute the content (shows & movies) to any viewing screen or projector in home, on your wearable tech, or in your mode of transportation or even outside like having your own drive-in movie theatre. My padawans, please Google ‘Drive-In movie theatre’ and marvel at the time people drove to go see a movie instead of speaking into their remotes. You will be able to see what content your children are watching and can alter or remove content that they should not be watching in the first place. You will also be able to set a reward system so that the TV can only be active if their homework is done, they got a good report card, etc. Or you can set a ratings system so you will only see content above a Tomatometer or if it gets four starts or above, say. You will also be able to enable a night-vision option to introduce orange light into the picture so it’s easier on your eyes and can promote better sleep and less eye strain as the evening wears on.
4) You will be able to merge phone technology into your TV viewing technology so, like a head’s up display, you will be able to see who’s calling, have a phone conference, share your TV content, take photos, take videos, and interact with your phone caller leveraging your phone’s technological capabilities. Can we say ‘iTV”?
5) You will be able to view your content wherever your eyes focus. TV will be enabled on your fridge, on signage (think billboards, bus stops, etc), and even in the sky. Yes, one day you’ll be able to watch movies projected into the sky, 400 feet above your head in 3D without glasses using varying controlled bursts of laser into the night sky overhead. Wouldn’t that be cool?
6) You will be able to feel heat and pain and other touch-based sensory from a complimentary or auxiliary device. Haptic feedback will be coming to your phone but imagine that technology paired with your iPad or even a table-top technology from which you can feel the same pain, heat, cold, and softness that your favorite actors feel. Imagine you’re watching a movie about Mount Everest and your sensor-pad (on which your hands rest) cools down and becomes ice cold. Imagine you’re watching a movie with an action sequence and you receive little jolts from the haptic layer that surprises you. Now imagine that all of these sensory experiences are not on a table top of on your phone but they’re integrated into the very fabric you wear and while you sit, you feel the movie. All of this would add additional sensory experience to your TV viewing experience and that’s where we’re headed.
Beyond just watching TV, one day soon we’ll customize every aspect from choosing which shows we want to watch (not just networks) but we can fund the production of new shows or movies though iPay or Google wallet for example, choose where we want to watch (send your movie to your seat on your upcoming flight, or ride on the cross-country high-speed tube system), how we want to watch, who is allowed to watch (do your chores kiddos!), interact with other people watching what we’re watching, interact with the companies that produced the content, interact directly with the advertisers themselves, leverage technology from other devices into our TV watching experience, expand our social and geological circles by mass outdoor viewing experiences, and even feel what we watch through the integration of haptic feedback systems that are just now being developed.
It’s been a wild ride since 1900 and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.