Social TV might need an extra lift

There are various definitions of what ‘social TV’ will look like when it reaches maturity but even today, all broadcasters are looking into ways to get their audiences involved in programming. Real-time discussions, whether via a second screen device or a connected TV set, create opportunities for people to become even more socially engaged with TV programming which has enormous significance for broadcasters, as viewers can discuss shows via the TV set and influence each other’s viewing.

Social TV Interface

New content and social capabilities require new interfaces and control devices.

User interfaces that enable the TV to become more than just a screen to watch soaps on exist today.

TVs are becoming more like entertainment centres where you can simultaneously chat with friends on Facebook  and catch up on True Blood, without having to sit with a laptop on your lap. But this, combined with the flood of online video available via connected TVs, makes conventional ‘two-dimensional’ EPGs irrelevant, even redundant in the long term in my opinion as they will not be able to cope with the quantity and variety of content that needs to be displayed on a screen: As we come to expect more and more from our TVs the interface needs to change to keep up.

With the number of European households with a connected TV expected to grow from less than 4m (2009) to 47m in 2014 according to Parks Associates,.broadcasters are naturally anticipating that by incorporating social features around TV programmes they can open up more commercial opportunities by increasing loyalty around programmes, and easing the discovery process. But it seems to me that while there’s been a lot of effort put into producing connected TV sets (Samsung says that 17% of its TVs shipped in 2010 had an Internet connection and that this figure will jump to 70% by 2014) the manufacturers aren’t saying much about how we’re actually going to interact and navigate through that content. They can’t be expecting us to use our existing remote controls, can they?

It seems to me that if the industry paid as much attention to what the user interface should look like as the features involved in producing the TVs, social TV is likely to have taken off much more quickly. It stands to reason that traditional up-down-left-right controls of today’s remotes simply lack the range of interaction necessary to provide a relaxed and compelling user-experience.I refer to a whitepaper by research company, Futurescape that publishes strategy reports on Web video and connected TV trends and innovation.  The paper looks at ‘How connected TV transforms the business of TV’ and provides some interesting thoughts about the way next-generation EPGs will look. To summarise for you, they look like a computer screen. And as we’ve discovered with the computer, we need to directly point and click at the screen to get a workable user experience.

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About Navin Natoewal, General Manager Philips uWand

Navin Natoewal is General Manager of the Philips uWand team. uWand is a direct pointing and gesture control technology for remote controls. uWand offers fluent 3D gesture control and direct pointing capabilities with the same intuitiveness as a multi-touch screen. uWand, a result of 80 man-years of research and development, can be implemented in remote controls and interact with multiple electronic devices such as PCs, TVs, set-top boxes, DVD players and game consoles. Users control the devices simply by pointing in the appropriate direction or making specific movements in all three dimensions. For more information please visit http://www.uwand.com
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