The Future of TV

Earlier this year a research group at Cisco interviewed people in TV and academia (including me) and came up with 10 useful predictions about the future of tv. One of the authors of the report, Bill Gerhardt, will be on a panel I am moderating at FutureMediaFest this Wednesday November 16 at 2:45.

The Cisco white paper is short and worth reading as a summary of some of the major changes in what a television is (no remote; multiple size screens, including tablets, desktop computers, and mobile devices) , who we will watch with (friends, neighbors, distant relatives as virtual presences in the living room) ; and who is watching us (advertisers who will make personalized pitches). I expect  Bill and another panelist Tawny Schlieski from Intel to argue that viewers will want to create their own content, and I think Tawny has some intriguing ideas of how that is going to unfold in the not-too-distant future. I expect Crysta Metcalf from Motorola to offer us  the benefit of her close studies of actual viewers who have access to remote presence technologies on their TVs: I want to hear from her just how people feel about having the TV publish what they are watching so others can join in. I know that there is a lot of this kind of media consumption sharing going around,  and that it is the norm for music listening among the young, but I find it uncomfortable to think of people watching me watch TV. I’m also looking forward to getting the fresh-from-Hollywood power circles view of Nick DeMartino, the most plugged-in and yet analytically detached person I know in Hollywood. Nick will know what is exciting the creative community and juicing the greed-machine at the moment and how that is likely to play out in the longer run.

Thinking about the future of tv in the short run can make designers very nervous — platforms are unstable and content conventions are rapidly changing. We do not have a standard way of changing channels with gestures instead of a remote, of integrating “transmedia” storytelling across broadcast series and interactive games,  or of welcoming grandma into the livingroom as a virtual presence. The best way to think about design problems like  this — new technological features that are becoming possible but are still far from stable —  is to orient oneself to the long term direction of change and black box the disruptive particulars like android vs iOS or TV screen vs computer screen. That’s the approach we’ve been taking for the prototypes we create at my eTV Lab, which I’ll be writing about some more in future posts.

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