Oct 3, 2009

The Convergence of TV , the Internet, and Interactivity: Updated and Revised.

Yesterday I read an interesting article about the future of television on Experientia's Putting People First blog:
Herkko Hietanen: The social future of television.


In this article, Herkko Hietanen, a researcher at Helsinki Institute of Information Technology, is interviewed about his thoughts  about the future of TV.  He observes that "TV is broken" and thinks that "social television" is a concept that needs to be seriously addressed.  "Herkko ends with the observation that social television isn’t a new concept. We’ve seen lots of experimentation with split screens, which allow chat alongside live broadcast. “But television is a lean-back experience,” Herkko offers – you don’t want to share screen estate with your friends. Instead, he believes that social interactions will be before and after the show."


So what's happening now?  I'm not sure if the people on the technology end of the interactive/social TV scene have thought very deeply about how this will play out in our homes and social networks.  Right now, the only way I can access the Interactive TV channel my satellite carrier is through the user-unfriendly remote, which looks something like this.    

http://www.prosatellitesupply.com/images/IR_TO_UHF_PRO-3.jpg

http://www.echostar.com/images/products/remote.jpg My experience with the interactive TV channel on DISH Network has been frustrating. Why should I be forced to use a complicated remote-control system to interact with content?  Why should I be forced to experience a poorly-designed navigation system?   It is common knowledge that remote control systems are poorly designed, despite the fact that companies such a EchoStar have been involved with interactive TV for at least a decade now. 


What puzzles me is that things have not evolved very much, at least in terms of TV and interaction design. Here is an example -the following picture is a screen shot from a recent promo video about Playin' TV, an interactive TV offering that is the result of a collaboration between Dish Network and Echostar.  From what I can gather from the video, the only way to play the games through the user-unfriendly remote control!






Interactive TV innovations from DISH Network:  Playin'TV- Dish Network-Echostar- Promo October 2009 - Play Games on your TV!

(A list of games available for Dish Network subscribers can be found on the DishGames website.)

From the Playin' TV website, I linked to the Visiware website:
"Expert in casual gaming, Visiware is the world-leading provider of games for pay television. Its game channels are carried on more than 30 cable, satellite and IPTV networks and reach more than 120 million people within 77 countries."   


Visiware is behind Playin'TV, Playin' Casino, MiniKids TV, and Playin'Star. Playin'TV games now available on Internet connected televisions. There must be a better way.  Why not control the games with a Wiimote or iPhone?  Visiware might be working on some changes,  from the information on their User Interface and Design web page:  "It’s time for your New Generation Interface Design : Consumers expect innovative yet simple interfaces Compelling, intuitive U.I. is the key to success (Iphone, WII…)"


Digging Deeper
In the video clip below  Bill Leszinske, GM, from Intel Digital Home, discusses the future of interactive television. Consumers want to take their television experience and augment it with the internet experience.  Bill outlines the different ways this can happen:
  • Internet access is built into the television.
  • The internet can be accessed through the a set-box from a cable or satellite TV carrier
  • Interactive internet access can be built into a Blu-Ray box or gaming system
  • The technology will support 3D games and social networking.
Consumers want to take their TV experience and augment it with an internet experience.
Intel's Next Generation TV: Social Networking, 3D TV

How will technology support this convergence?


The following articles provide an overview of Intel's chip technology, previously known as "Sodaville", called SoC,  System on a Chip: Intel Unveils "Sodaville" Chip for TV Set-Top Boxes (Mark Hachman, PCMag, 9/24/09)


"But putting PC on a TV doesn't work; we know, we tried it," Kim said. "People want an immersive TV experience on their television." People want the power of the Internet on a TV, but they want it "simple," Kim said...What's needed is a pure Internet development framework, Kim said – and the most popular version of that is Adobe's Flash technology. David Wadhwani, general manager of the platform business unit at Adobe, said that the company has opened Flash and removed all license fees, requiring only that manufacturers to open the platform to third-party developers, as part of the Open Screen initiative.
Wadhwani demoed Flash 10 running on an Intel processor, showing full-screen Flash browsing, not to a Web site, but to a custom screen designed by Disney."

"The Sodaville processor uses an Atom core, and Intel has brought "Moore's Law" to shrink the processor to 45 nanometer technology. The Atom Processor CE4100, as it will be formally called, includes a 1080p video engine not to just decompress streams, but also recorded content supplied from another source, such as a hard drive. Intel doubled the speed of its 2D/3D engine, and added support for MPEG-4. The chip uses either DDR-2 or DDR-3 memory."



Intel Technology,  Processing Power Key to TV Revolution (Intel Developer Forum, 9/24/09)
New Intel chips run Web apps on TV sets (Sodaville) (itbusiness.ca, 9/25/09)   Podcast version
In the following video, Intel's work in the area of 3D Internet is discussed:
Intel Introduces the 3D Internet

Intel is also collaborating with Adobe to innovate mobile media production, which most likely lead to some interesting outcomes:


Adobe CS4 and the New Intel Core i7 Mobile
"Rendering is blazing fast." Mobile rendering on the road...anywhere anytime editing...



RELATED LINKS AND THOUGHTS
I previously posted on this topic a few times:
March 2009

Digital Convergence and Interactive TelevisionBoxee and Digital Convergence
December 2008:  An Example of Convergence:  Interactive TV: UXTV 2008

In my opinion, there are many factors to consider when thinking about television as we know it, web-based TV, and interactive television.  Technology exists that can support the convergence of the social web and interactive television, but the key players are coming from different directions and with different agendas.  Television still is a "push" medium, and this concept appears to be embedded in the mindsets of people involved with commercial TV programming.

For example, if you watch an episode of your favorite TV show via a network website,  you are forced to watch commercials all along the way.  If you stop the show and resume it after a break, you might even see the SAME commercial again!    This is annoying, just another example of the "push" mentality.  In my mind, this is a form of banner ad and pop-up litter- or even contamination!  Where is the seamless, engaging, innovative UX here?  (There are some examples of progress, such as the ABC's FlashForward website.)


I'm a subscriber to DISH Network, which offers some interactive TV programming.  I went to the DISH Network website to find out more about it, and this is what assaulted my vision:


















The website design looks pretty pushy to me. Does this foreshadow the future of Interactive TV?


Here's a screenshot of another DISH Network website:























From this web page you can link to the following web pages: DISH Remote Access: Sling "Your Browser, Your TV"  - links to product overviews:  Slingbox: "Watch your TV anywhere"  SlingPlayer Mobile:  "Extend your Slingbox experience to a mobile phone"  SlingCatcher: " Extend your Slingbox Experience to a TV"  Accessories: "Make your Sling Experience Complete"


An excerpt from Sling's promotional information:
"Founded in 2004, Sling Media, Inc. is a different kind of consumer electronics company - one that's working to demystify convergence technologies and to create empowering experiences for the digital media consumer. The focus of Sling Media is to embrace - not replace - existing products and standards by enhancing them with hardware and software that make divergent technologies compatible and greatly improve the consumer experience. Because, after all, can't we all just get along?! "


"Sling Media, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of EchoStar Corporation (NASDAQ: SATS), is a leading digital lifestyle company offering consumer services and products that are a natural extension of today's digital way-of-life. Sling Media's product family includes the internationally acclaimed, Emmy award-winning Slingbox that allows consumers to watch and control their living room television shows at any time, from any location, using PCs, Macs, PDAs and smartphones and the revolutionary new SlingCatcher, a universal media player that seamlessly delivers broadcast TV, Internet video and personal content to the TV. Sling Media is also the company behind the video entertainment web site, Sling.com, offering consumers a wide variety of popular TV shows, movies and other entertainment free for viewing online or on the TV using SlingCatcher."


I managed to find information about DISH's interactive TV offerings  elsewhere on the web:
DISH Network(R) Premieres Interactive Television Experience for New History Series BATTLES BC
DISH Network (R) Announces Winners of 8th Annual Interactive Television Awards


At any rate, here is a smattering of related articles and video-clips related to the future of TV that I'm presently contemplating:
Interactive TV Today:  "InteractiveTV Today [itvt] is the most widely read and trusted news source on the rapidly emerging medium of multiplatform, broadband interactive television (ITV)" 
TV's Killer App?  Guess What, It May Be An App
Joe Mandese, Media Daily News 10/2/09

Ensequence
Video games, Interactive TV, and Cheats


Interactive TV/Internet at the hospital: Interactive TV Gives Patients Access to Movies and Internet
Skylight Internet Access Patient System

I'll add information about the next generation of remote control technology soon.
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