March 15, 2007

SXSW: Tune in isn't a turn on

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tveye.jpgTelevision today is no longer the elephant in the room. Similar to global warming, it has increasingly been gaining momentum and awareness as well as technological contribution. However, while content is king, the overall experience is moving in to claim checkmate. How we interact and interpret television currently is on a static plane of directional geography: surfing channels up, down, left, and right. Helping break the tangible and virtual norms, David Merkoski (Frog Design) narrated the audience through an up and coming product yet to hit the markets.

Appropriately titled Mondrian, the product set to go public next year, is a TV navigation and recommendation Zoomable User Interface (ZUI) that attempts to rethink TV user interaction. A few major differences with Mondrian is that a user no longer needs to be stuck within nested menus while navigating and it has an active anticipation engine that takes in the content, time, and environment you watch in to build a profile and recommendations. It goes without saying that Mondrian becomes an easy target for Big Brother contextual advertisers. While there have already been proposals for all-advertising channels within the ZUI grids, Merkoski remained unclear on any efforts to save the product from advertising overload.

Going more in depth with intuitive interaction, Merkoski gave an insightful overview of remote controls and interfaces. The up, down, left, right navigation is in touch with a geographical grid, while a ZUI typically tries to orient the user in a way similar to how a camera would. The up, down, left, right is not only for the living room screens, but also small screens like mobile phones as well. The original idea for this came from what some might think of as a hyper-interaction culture: gaming. Moving away from the standard, Merkoski used this to account for why people are so amazed with the Nintendo Wii and iPhone. Merkoski ended with a call to inter-action, "There won't be a choice if we don't design it."

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