ideation iteration illumination

Big news with the announcement of Google TV at Google I/O. This is a huge leap forward and actually brings the term interactive television closer to the expectation of it’s namesake. For a long time “interactive” with regard to television has been limited to basic playback controls, content streams, advertisements, SMS votes and other lower level transactions that pass for interaction, but really don’t make it “interactive” in the sense we’ve long had the appetite and aptitude for.

Armed with Googles massive library of API’s and android’s extensive open source penetration, this thing is gonna take the world by storm. Integration with phones, offers the opportunity to split the same TV ‘event’ experience across multiple users within a single context (ex. the living room). I with my phone, you with yours, in the same room can dually mediate a shared experience. Not augmented via telepresence like parallel play but colocation, actual you-me-now socializing. More like a video game, but entirely different. Most often, video games provide agency within a narrative. A compelling method, no doubt, but Google TV is poised to offer a different sort of communal screen based activity, more group collaboration.

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clicker.tv-10-ftClicker.tv just launched a 10ft UI version of their aggregation service and I’ve had the time to give it a spin so I thought I would pass on my initial reactions. I realize that it’s in ‘beta’ (the infernal excuse for not doing it right) but there were quite a few points of friction for me.

First things first, this is fast! Wow. It’s an HTML 5 front end that really moves but unfortunately it seems a bit for show (or at least premature) since all of the actual content is served by non-HTML 5 providers (will return to this topic). Despite that, I’m willing to give them credit on this point and will chalk it up to ‘looking ahead’. Its UDLR (Up/Down/Left/Right on a keyboard or remote) optimized interface is swift and agile. Even after using it for an extended time I was still impressed by the performance.

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I complain about ‘apps’.  I complain about apps, a lot.  I am of the opinion that there is more hype to 80% them than long term utility.  But gripes with ‘apps’ is an entirely differnt post. This time I want to highlight an ‘app’ done right.  This one was built for the Ipad and designed to pair with a Comcast Xfinity box and came to my attention today after griping about another cable provider’s new set-top-box UI (see previous post).

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Cox Cable's Trio UI

I believe that a cable set-top-box is capable of a more interesting browsing experience than the Trio UI that has been recently announced from Cox Cable.  In fact, I’m sure of it.

In case you are unaware, there are many limitations that come with developing engaging user experiences on devices like set-top-boxes because of limited storage and chipset capabilities. They’re really, really, dumb machines compared to how we are used to consuming media in our broadband world. They’re nothing like desktop computers or cell phones. But technical constraints are no excuse for poor design implementations. Some amazingly creative ideas have emerged despite severe limits. In partnership with frog design the Trio UI is being baked into Cox Cable’s latest hardware offering. The new design takes advantage of the wider 16:9 format of today’s TV sets by offering three panes (Trio, get it) that function as a cascading menu. I want to spend some time unpacking my grudges with it because it bothers me too much to ignore. I will be ignoring the outdated graphics and ‘borrowed’ navigation highlight bar care of TiVo. I’m really sticking to the Trio UI as a poor choice for an optimal multi channel browsing experience on the television.

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