Smart TV: the picture is getting clearer

uWand - remote control - the key to the Smart TV revolutionSmart TV adoption rates are climbing rapidly. The market is expected to have grown by 15% worldwide this year, with over 125 million shipments expected in 2016. It’s evident that an increasing number of people are buying into this new technology, but few are currently using it to its full potential.

A recent Harris Interactive report and infographic showed that 10% of homes in the UK have a Smart TV. Yet only half of owners have actually connected them to the internet; with many feeling no need to use the online services to supplement live programing.

Despite the present lack of enthusiasm with the key feature of Smart TVs, consumer demand is still moving in favour of internet-based content delivery. This is a direct response to the negative consumer perception of linear TV broadcasting schedules. The explosion of catch-up television has encouraged viewers to shift from exclusively viewing live TV, and Over-The-Top services (Lovefilm, Netflix etc.) now allow users to consume the content they want on a multitude of internet-enabled devices. As a platform capable of supporting all of these services and more, Smart TVs are perfectly situated to capitalise on this market development.

According to Harris, those users who have connected their Smart TVs to the internet are already exploring the technology; engaging with apps, creating their own ‘channels’ and subscribing to Over-The-Top services. They don’t want to be restricted by broadcasting schedules. Smart TVs hold the potential to liberate the viewer from these limitations, and will undoubtedly play an important role in the future of the living room. However, many consumers still turn to their computers, games consoles or second screens to view online content. Although the demand for streaming media is there, consumers are choosing to engage with it through alternative platforms.

The lack of internet use on Smart TVs could be a result of an unduly complex user interface, although it’s more likely to be a consequence of the current control method; the tired up-down-left-right approach to navigation, the limitations of which I have discussed previously on this blog. Alternative technologies, such as voice control, are still not well established, and will take time to achieve widespread acceptance within the market. As the TV has long been the ‘entertainment centre’ for families, it would likely regain its place as the ‘go-to hub’ for media consumption if the service was easier to navigate – a change that has to come from the remote control.

A new technology, namely uWand, could solve this problem by introducing gesture control to the TV platform. Gesture as a control paradigm has already proven to be successful in games consoles (e.g. the Microsoft Kinect), highlighting that the general public are ready to embrace this change. Additionally, this technology holds the potential for a multitude of new features not possible with current controllers, for example Cloud gaming and wider access to media (such as music via Spotify).

This represents a significant opportunity for manufacturers, by capitalising upon this obvious consumer demand for an improved remote control solution. Over-The-Top providers could benefit, too, by enticing a new wave of users to try their services.

Easier to navigate than the traditional up-down-left-right design, gesture represents a next-generation remote control to match next-generation TVs. It’s clear that Smart TVs will form an integral part of the living room experience in coming years and, as I’ve mentioned before, the remote control is a key requirement for this.

The Smart TV revolution is inevitable, but it’s the controller that holds the key to its progress.

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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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