The (not so far fetched) future of interactive television

By Gill McIntosh, Consultant

February 25, 2015   

My husband recently convinced me that we needed a new TV after getting the ‘green line of death’ on our old one. Personally, I could have lived with the line, but his real motivation came to light when he mentioned in passing, “So, I’ve been looking at Smart TVs…”. Ahh, now I see, there’s a new gadget to be had.

Fast forward a few weeks and we’re very happy with our new Samsung (internet-enabled) Smart TV. Sure, some of the new features such as motion and voice control lost their novelty pretty quickly (they’re still pretty unreliable and can’t really replace the remote) but there are other features (think Skype calls from the sofa, a browser and apps) which have much longer lasting appeal and which are also exciting because they give a real sense of where TV is really headed.

So what might our future television experience morph into? What might this “final frontier in internet-based software applications” (as some have called it) actually deliver? To answer this, I think we need to start thinking about the other devices and services that your TV will be interconnected with, and the role the TV will play amongst all of the other entertainment devices we have at home and on the move.

Smart companion applications and data collection create a richer interactive experience

Second screen experiences, sometimes referred to as “companion apps” or “companion devices”, are something that I believe we will see a great deal of in the future. There are already several examples of these apps available, such as Zeebox, which provides users with richer content on a secondary mobile device about the program they’re watching (e.g. actor bios, tweet feeds, audience polls etc.), without the need to search for it. But it’s the collection of data that has the real potential to transform the way we consume television.

A good example of smarter data collection is provided by on-demand provider, Netflix, who have rolled out a feature that aims to offer a more personalised experience by inviting subscribers to create individual profiles which learn viewing preferences. Furthermore, users are able to stop and start programs on one TV or device and pick up where they left off on another. In theory, you should be able to connect your tablet to a hotel TV and have immediate access to the same viewing experience you have at home. The TV starts to act more like a docking station, rather than just a monitor.

The ultimate lean back experience: relevance and shopping!

But data collection doesn’t stop there; look out for e-commerce companies entering the arena. By learning our viewing preferences, companies will be able to serve up more relevant and engaging advertising. Now imagine combining this with second screen technology: you’re watching Sex & the City on your TV, and within a few gestures on your tablet, you’re able to add Carrie’s Jimmy Choos to your wish list, book a trip to New York or learn how to make a Cosmopolitan, all while still watching your program in the background. The viewing experience becomes active, rather than passive, and advertising becomes useful, rather than annoying.

Quality of the experience is as important as the technology itself

One of the biggest challenges to mass adoption will be creating a consistent second screen experience, across different devices and television networks. Users are unlikely to use this technology if presented with fragmented experiences that require relearning each time they change the channel. Quality of the experience will be as important as the technology itself.

We recently launched the new Cineworld site. The result was the latest in user-centred innovation and social integration — a huge step forward; creating an immersive experience that delivers cinematic quality before, during and after the movie.

At WAE; we blend a deep understanding of technology and human behaviour with a healthy dollop of creativity to deliver richly engaging user-centred experiences. So feel free to get in touch if you are interested in finding out more about how we help make game-changing improvements within the world of entertainment or beyond.