What’s on Tonight

When I first moved to America, a very long time ago indeed, I remember being overwhelmed by the number of channels available on television, admittedly cable television, but still, it was a revelation. After all, in Australia, at the time, we had 5 channels total – two government sponsored ones, and three commercial broadcasters. I remember too staying up for hours and hours just surfing the dial. There were so many things to watch. Fast forward twenty years and the number of channels and other content streams have continued to multiple and diversify, as have the number of remote controls we all suffer through. This week, I asked Delia Grenville, a Human Factors Engineer on my team, to talk little bit about the future of finding something to watch on TV.

Here’s Delia:

We at Intel invest a lot of time into understanding what consumers want to see on TV. We see a proliferation of content for television. More content pours in from just about everywhere, and we do mean everywhere – your phone, your camera, the internet, and your service provider are just a few examples. Our research has shown that people are overwhelmed by content that they don’t want and are already going to multiple sources, on TV and off, to find what they do want to watch. One way that Intel has begun to focus on this challenge is by researching methods of aggregating content in a format that makes sense for TV.

Keeping our eyes on search

Computers and phones, the two devices with which TVs will most frequently interact in the future, all came to this world with keyboards, keypads, handsets, and headsets more or less built into them. The TV on the other hand came with a tuner, volume and screen controls. It was a number of years later that those knobs, buttons, and dials were integrated into the TV remote, which most of us would agree haven’t been perfected yet. And we’re incrementally adding capabilities, with computing power being the latest and most significant.

As TV continues to evolve as a the primary screen for content in the digital home, we are continuing to probe on how we can use that computing power to find out what search can be on the TV. We know that making search more visual is an important part of that process. We have developed and tested many concepts to enhance the Electronic Program Guide (EPG) as a mechanism for visual search, including leveraging the ability to incorporate 3D user interfaces into the television experience. Check out the channel wheelin the March 11th Technology for Our Lives Posting.

We also recognize the need to keep our fingers, voices, and gestures on search too, making the TV experience even more natural and casual than it already is. The future of TV, from Intel’s perspective, is bright.

Legacy and Destiny

If early inventors could ever have imagined the TV as an all-purpose content device with a viewing library of visual content stored almost anywhere, would they have made remote controls differently? It’s hard to imagine otherwise, but legacy impacts destiny. The easy-viewing appeal of television has as much impact on what search can be on this device as does computer power and content. Our demos indicate that people may prefer to scan their content before selecting it. Our research continues to question a lot of deeply entrenched assumptions, as we ask ourselves what will work better.

For instance, will the navigational metaphor of up, down, right, and left otherwise known as, directional characteristics search interfaces, prevail? Since up, down, right, and left can be mapped beyond simply browsing the table format of an electronic program guide, they’re likely to be around for a while to come.

Search will also evolve to accommodate the array of input devices bursting onto the marketplace. Will TVs respond to spoken requests by finding what you want to watch? If they do, it will probably be with a device such as a phone or other speech input remote. Being able to point, grab, touch, and tap the content you’re looking for continues to inform our quest to speed consumers to the content they are searching for.

What’s on TV

Consumers will have more choices than ever before. What’s on TV will depend on what’s available from a variety of content providers. The screens and devices that make the viewing experience more natural will be where compute power, content, and comfortable TV viewing meet – it’s an intersection we’re all eager to make happen.