Watching TV with people has been a lifelong habit of mine.
My grandparents always had a TV, for sports and for the soaps, and upgraded to color with the invention of one day cricket. A trip to my grandparent’s house meant Saturday morning cartoons and Sunday afternoon old movies. It was a big treat because we didn’t have our first TV at home until I was nearly 14 years old – mum thought they were a bad influence. Even when a TV did arrive — little, black and white, connected to four channels – we were allowed 60 minutes of television a day, including the nightly national news. I remember the first time I was allowed to break that rule, for the BBC mini-series Brideshead Revisited, back when Jeremy Irons when achingly young and lovely but after that it was back to the regular 60 minute allocations. Other people’s houses were where I watched television, following their tastes and patterns. Visiting America three years later and encountering a world of cable television, MTV, and twenty-four hour programming was a revelation and a shock. I stayed awake for an entire day of television, sitting on a family friend’s coach, mesmerized and overwhelmed.
For the last five years, watching TV with people is a habit that has found rich ground with my colleagues in the User Experience Group. Over the years we have we have thought about the future of TV and actually started to build it. It has been a remarkable adventure. From ViiV to the birth of SmartTV (including GoogleTV), we have participated in the re-making of Digital Home and of Intel’s approach to Consumer Electronics. We have driven a more user-centric approach, one that starts with two questions: why do people love TV, and what can we do to make them love it more? It was always about what we could do to make the experience of TV better! For us, starting with a rich, ethnographic approach to people and their TV habits let us ground everything we did in what it was that people REALLY wanted. It formed the basis of our design work, our user experience architectures and even our User Experience roadmap. Our customers told us that this gave Digital Home a competitive edge in the market place and it also helped us engage with a wide range of potential and new customers, as well as other eco-system players, like retailers and service providers. We were incredibly lucky to have strong partners across Digital Home who understood the value of our work and our approach and who helped make this part of how we did business.
Recently Intel CTO Justin Rattner announced the creation of a new organization in Intel Labs – Interaction and Experience Research (IXR). It is my hope that this new lab will help us understand: what are the experiences and interactions that matter to people? But we won’t stop there, we’ll also look at how we engineer and architect these experiences for them. How will we make things, that ultimately, that matter, and that move people? It is a hugely exciting time to be at Intel, and doing the work we do.
And this got me thinking that my lifelong habit hasn’t been just watching TV with people, it’s been using technology with people and watching them use it in their lives. IXR is a unique opportunity for Intel to understand why people love their computers and their phones and their cars. And then we can use these insights to make those things even better for them. We need to ask why people will love digital signs and internet gadgets and let that drive some of our technological development too. We need to continue to build a compelling set of perspectives on what people care about based on rigorous research. We need to explore and develop the next generation of technologies that will help us all interact with the devices, services and applications that continue to proliferate – what can we do, technically, to help people love their technology, not merely tolerate it. And we need to clearly articulate what it is that people will want from the technologies in their lives, what are the experiences they will value, and care about, and how can knowing that help us shape what we do, and what we do to succeed. So stay tuned.