MetaMirror & The Future of TVAugust 5th, 2010
MetaMirror is a concept, a culmination of our involvement in the Digital Home space, designed in response to new television watching behaviors.
There is an ongoing debate as to whether media in the living room should be powered by the internet – using ever increasing speeds to feed rich HD content, or instead by the existing television infrastructure – already omnipresent in homes around the world. Yet, this debate focuses on technology, and in doing so neglects the most important aspect of the television experience, the viewer. It is this stakeholder, the protaganist in the act of television watching, who we must represent as designers.
Our recent activities in this space have given us a wide-angle view of the television watching experience. Analysing new technologies, behaviors and viewer expectations, has allowed us to identify new opportunities. When these opportunities are filled by products which enhance the viewers experience rather than interrupting it, we get one step closer to truly next-generation television.
What is happening in this picture??
In many ways the argument regarding what technology drives the future living room is irrelevant. It is unlikely, given the behaviors that now permeate these environments, that any one infrastructure is going to monopolize the provision of content.
Looking at this image, mindful of the fact that this scene is now synonymous with contemporary television watching, should help us to highlight some key behavioral observations:
TV is a communal experience.
The paradigm of communally viewing a single event is and always has been central to the TV viewing experience. The 10 foot distance is how the experience is defined. The audience regard the image from a distance.
Web is a personal experience.
In opposition to TV, our experience of the web is very personal. It is is all about tailored interactions. Favourites, avatars and comments all define identity and choice.
TV screens are getting crowded.
In a race to flood us with content, broadcasters are giving less and less real estate to the actual programme in question. Major sports games are overlayed with statistics & scores, while exchange rates and breaking news headlines all compete for space on any given news channel.
Television drives internet behavior.
It is a broadcasters prerogative to drive traffic to their own websites. URLs are now commonplace both during and after every piece of programming. In combination with the multiple devices now present, this introduces a very direct path from programme to further content.
TV is being supplemented.
We have become accustomed to two-way interaction with our devices. The television is by nature, one-way. The behaviors listed above supplement this uni-directionality, increasing the levels of interaction between user and content.
What are the converging technologies??
Running in parallel with these behavioral changes is a series of technological developments, some of which have reached viewers, some of which are imminent.
Often hypothesized about but quickly becoming a reality is Internet Protocal Television, IPTV. GoogleTV have entered the market and will undoubtetly bring this technology, facilitating searchable on-demand programming, to the masses. It is estimated that IPTV will hit 68 million households worldwide by 2014 (Source: Strategy Analytics).
Capacitative (touch sensitive) surfaces, now evident on even the cheapest of devices, have reached ubiquity.
Optical fibres, already becoming commonplace in mainland Europe, are in some cases facilitating 1GB download speeds directly into homes. Rich, full quality HD content is fully enabled.
It’s fair to say that RSS and XML feeds are the backbone of the internet.
This frames the television viewing experience as it currently exists in terms of both the user and the various technologies involved. It’s through this familiarisation and analysis that new opportunities can be mapped – opportunities which are grounded in real user needs. MetaMirror is our response to these needs.
So, what is it??
Meta-Mirror is a concept application that delivers an enhanced television experience without disrupting the conventional expectations of home entertainment. It allows viewers to access content relevant to the program currently being viewed.
The product is a software platform which runs on a secondary device of the users choice, displaying this contextual content over a mirror of the television broadcast. By bringing together live television, real-time contextual information and an intuitive user interface, Meta Mirror is positioned to update television from uni-directional broadcast to two-way interaction. Three scenarios explain how this can happen:
For sports the main screen is dedicated to the game/match in question. Real time statistics of the game, together with twitter updates and other scores of the viewers choice are all overlayed on the device running MetaMirror. In addition, new forms of online betting / merchandising / purchasing are enabled.
In lifestyle programming tagged objects, in this case ingredients, become clickable. This in combination with 3rd party supermarket plugins makes putting together shopping baskets simple.
Music broadcasts are enriched by track names, album details and further artist information. Direct links to iTunes, Ticketmaster, Wikipedia and broadcasters music websites allow viewers to delve further into the music on screen. As smart object recognition becomes more commonplace, instruments are tagged automatically.
Meta Mirror’s innovation is in bringing together as yet unconnected facets of our digital content experience. It creates a contextual access point to web data from TV viewing. No one has created a meta overlay on a live program on a separate device. There is further innovation in how it delivers the experience to the user. By using a secondary device, Meta Mirror does not clutter the primary screen and enables personalized interaction with the service.
The immediate enhancements are obvious. A wealth of related content is brought closer to users, who are otherwise trawling online in a manner which is influenced by television, but still fundamentally disconnected. At the same time the primary viewing experience is refreshed, cleared from on-screen clutter. As we mentioned already, the traditionally uni-directional activity of watching TV is suddenly much more interactive.
Alongside these immediate user benefits is a wealth of potential for 3rd parties, advertisers and service providers. As Youtube continues to implement pre-roll ads it begs the question, is this traditional disruptive advertising technique still relevant to on-demand video services? Or more to the point – why are we trying to marry old disciplines with new technology?
MetaMirror has the potential to combine tagged video objects with new forms of advertising, generating revenue for 3rd parties in a way which is more attractive to viewers and altogether more seamless. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but surely this is next-generation television marketing?
For all the developments in TV technology from HD to IPTV the industry seems myopic. It believes that bringing the power of the web to TV means the abilty to search for more content.
Meta-Mirror is a concept based on joining the dots between the organic way in which television-watching behaviors have developed, and the technologies which are permeating the industry. It challenges the status quo of traditional television advertising, creating new opportunities for next-generation product placement and targeted, relevant marketing. At the same time it enriches the viewers experience of watching TV. Overall, it enhances rather than interrupts.
If you would like to know more of the story behind MetaMirror, feel free to get in touch, or leave a comment below.