Here’s to waking up every morning…to coffee, hot dosas, a plush couch and news from the Internet on TV (and I do mean all at the same time)

We recently conducted a series of demo show events internally across Intel and externally for analysts, showcasing how we’re re-imagining the TV from yesterday to Smart TVs with amazing user experiences moving forward. The response has been overwhelming and we’re seeing the impact of an experience design concept, a demo and their stories all across industry and our partners. Talking about what makes a great connected TV experience is one thing, showing it is completely another!! My group has been churning out futuristic design concepts of next generation smart TV experiences for a few years now, driving the CE industry by imagining the possibilities – it is very cool, and one day I hope we can share more of it on this blog.

In the meantime I thought I would ask the woman behind the demo fests, an design researcher in my organization, to reflect on another piece of the TV+internet puzzle. Ashwini Asokan, who hails from Chennai via CMU, promised to talk about her personal experiences at home while surfing the internet. Her frustrations now have her serving up 5 design principles for a cool, desirable connected TV experience.

Every morning at 7 am, I open my web browser to read what’s going on in the world, check on stock prices and catch up with news and stories of new products in the consumer device market. There’s typically a coffee in the hand and most weekdays a plate of dosas (South Indian pancakes) while I call shotgun on my husband, for the bigger of the two chairs in the small den where our desktop sits. And you’d think I’d have perfected this routine given how I’ve done it every morning for the past few years. It’s quite a sight, I’m told! Between tearing my dosa pieces, eating them, sipping on my coffee, all with my right hand and scrolling / clicking with the mouse using my typically never-used left hand to read all that news … I invariably spill something, drop something, click on the wrong links and mess up the few minutes of ‘together time’ I’m trying to get with my husband while catching up with what’s going on in the world. I multi-task through the day like anyone else, but I wish this happy morning routine didn’t turn out this clumsy and awkward almost every day. And every one of those mornings, I see an article on yet another launch of a new connected TV, the ultimate ‘internet on your TV’ device or software, as they are typically referred to. And I of course wonder, does this mean I can now enjoy my internet news on TV? Are the days of this clumsy dance done?

The last 2 years have seen such a wide range of internet connected TV solutions come to market. These devices offer different kinds of internet on TV solutions and social media services which keep changing and growing with every new product introduced. Most of what you hear and see about them, is how they differentiate themselves based on the content services and feature set they provide consumers. While those are primary value propositions for any product, the missing ingredient often in the mix, is a desirable, ‘wow’-able 10′ user experience. What if I had an internet browser designed for my TV that allows me to cozy up to my plush couch with my hot dosas and coffee, instead of that chair in my tiny den?! What if I could interact with it using my voice and simple point and click remote control and have my news delivered to me in a visually compelling way so I don’t have to read miles and miles of text? What if I could actually have a decent conversation with my husband on the stuff we’re catching up on instead of cleaning the spills and seeing that “I told you so” look every morning?? Are we there yet?



Lounging in front of that with my dosas vs. my clumsy act in the tiny den

In my group, we strongly believe that compelling UI paradigms for browsing through content on TV can revolutionize the TV experience, make new usages like integrating broadband and broadcast content, relevant to consumers, and ultimately, render connected TV services as an appealing and exciting value proposition to the mainstream consumer. All of this, while holding on to what people have always loved about their TVs – its simplicity and sociality! And as a design researcher, while I never use myself as an example to sight what the end consumer or user desires, you can see why I can make an exception this time – I clearly need this as much as every other prospective consumer does. And it’s all the more of a reason I feel very passionate working on this along with my other design colleagues.

Ashwini’s 5 Design principles for internet + TV experience that makes for coffee, dosas, and a happy husband.

We’ve been working towards defining compelling paradigms for the 10′ browsing experience for the past few years, testing it with consumers and iterating them. Here’s a snapshot of the key design principles I believe are essential to a desirable 10′ open internet experience.

Visual navigational elements:Visually compelling UI elements that can sit on top of the webpage providing a simple and Unintrusive mechanism for consumers to make choices on what to surf or search before landing on the webpage. Like the mobile industry, it will clearly take our TV industry a few years to begin seeing mainstream websites being published exclusively for TV. These visual navigational elements, whether in the form of widgets, apps or 3D menus help overcome that problem by focusing the user on other UI elements that can be overlaid on top of the webpage, keeping interaction with webpage itself, minimal.

Access to an integrated and contextual content experience:Primary usages for surfing the web on TV include quick searches, online shopping, access to websites with heavy A/V content, access to internet content often not available on widgets or apps, amongst others. Consumers are not expecting to have an immersive, 2 hour reading of their favorite online news source on their TV. ‘Internet snacking’ as some of our research participants call it, is the primary use of the browser. It is important as a result, to ensure bringing together of both internet and broadcast content where relevant, whether its stats or highlights of simultaneous ongoing games related to the sport the user is watching, or juxtaposition of browser and TV in different view modes to ensure we don’t yank the user away from the TV experience completely. Someone recently mentioned to me that the killer experience on TV is TV, something we believe in strongly in our group as well. Creating a holistic experience integrating internet and broadcast content together in a compelling way, keeping at the heart of it what people love about their TVs, hence becomes a very essential design principle for the design of connected TV experience.

Personalization:Getting lost and overwhelmed in the sea of the cyber world is not something people want while lounging on their couches in front of the TV. Developing personalized portals and redundant UI elements that serve up in different ways, just what you, the user wants to see from the internet will be key to opening up the browsing experience to mainstream consumers. TV is also a heavy social experience. People don’t expect to be indulging in private activities like updating on social networking websites or chatting with a friend when other family members are around. Providing single and group profile based content and features can often aid in establishing relevant experiences for the audience.

Intelligent Search:Search, we believe, will be the primary usage of open browsing capability on TV. Providing viewers with predictive search results reduces the need to type full phrases which can be laborious while lying on your couch. Displaying search results visually, not textually, further enhances the searching function making it 10′ appropriate. Integrating search as part of the user’s ongoing activity and context can further enhance the search experience.

Multiple input modalities:Last but not the least, providing simple features like voice search, point and click, and hard slide-out keyboard attached to the remote control will determine adoption of the connected TV products. In the absence of a compelling remote control, the experience of browsing on TV can fall apart for the consumer, and perhaps even slow its overall adoption.

We’re at the forefront of the industry, designing connected TV concepts and driving the smart TV industry towards next generation experiences. These principles help provide us with guidelines and tools as we continue to envision the future of connected TV. One look at our demos from IDF and CES, though, and I’m comfortable saying “I think we’re almost there”. I see myself very close to moving to my couch from my den, I see a happy husband, refreshing discussions on the news and gossip we catch up on the internet every morning and even more, like pulling in my brother and dad from across different parts of the globe to work up a steamy argument! I can’t think of a better way to start my morning. I hope you’re all as excited as I am about the possibilities, the change and the upcoming revolution on TV!

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