Television is dead. Or is it?

How the Internet, devices, and a new generation of viewers are redefining the “boob tube” of the future

Announcing the next Cooper Parlor: The Future of TV

When: Thursday, October 24th (Networking at 6, event starts at 6:30)
Moderated by: Richard Bullwinkle, Head of US Television Innovation at Samsung and Jeremy Toeman, CEO of the startup Dijit Media
Where: Cooper’s Studio, 85 2nd Street, 8th Floor, San Francisco
Cost: $10

Once, television was simple. Families gathered religiously around a glowing box to watch the latest episode of “I love Lucy”. Fast-forward to today: the Internet enables a multitude of new viewing devices, and wildly different viewing habits have turned “television” on its head. In this Cooper Parlor, Richard Bullwinkle, Head of US Television Innovation at Samsung and Jeremy Toeman, CEO of the startup Dijit Media will share some curious trends in media consumption, technological advances, and the evolution of show content and format. Then, they’ll lead a brainstorming session to rethink the “television of the future” together.

Here are just a few curious factoids we’ll explore:

  • What is the #1 device for watching Netflix? The iPad? A laptop? It turns out it’s the Sony Playstation 3. Why do viewers flock to this device rather than the connected TV or an iPad?
  • Over 90% of all TV viewers use a second screen while watching TV. How might this impact the way we design the television experience and programming?
  • Can you guess why 70% of connected TVs in the US actually get connected to the internet, but only 30% do in Europe?

Join us as we discuss where TV is headed, and generate new ideas for what television can be!

What is the Cooper Parlor?

The Cooper Parlor is a gathering of designers and design-minded people to exchange ideas around a specific topic. We aim to cultivate conversation that instigates, surprises, entertains, and most importantly, broadens our community’s collective knowledge and perspective about the potential for design

Thinking outside the boxee

Yup that’s right. First they had the idea to get the Internet on your TV (remember WebTV?) then it was all about TV on the Internet (Hulu, CBS, CNN, etc. ) and now we’ve got TV on the Internet put back on your TV (boxee).

For those of you not already in the know, boxee is a multi-platform media center with a 10-foot interface for aggregating video, music and photos that exist both offline and online. Others have failed in this space, but the boxee offering pushes the paradigm of content distribution and consumption in some interesting ways.

Read More

A conversation about voice interactions

A while back, several of us in the studio had a little spontaneous discussion about voice user interfaces over email. We thought we’d share some highlights. Please pile on in the comments section.

Steve Calde: What are people’s experiences with voice user interfaces? [A client] is interested in learning more about how to document voice-activated systems, and wondered if we had any experience to share.

Alan Cooper: You could also suggest to them that voice interfaces are inherently bad and will never work very well.

Dave Cronin: Why are they inherently bad?

I agree that they often are bad, but it seems to be more an implementation issue than something intrinsic about voice commands.

Stefan Klocek: The reason they are inherently flawed is that we use our voice for other more important things in addition to the system level input we would like to give to our DVD player. There is no way for the voice interface to understand that the context has changed and that I am no longer giving it a command, rather I am now giving my child a command or am simply muttering to myself. Of course we could imagine a system in which we indicate context by saying “DVD player – pause”, but this is adjusting my input to the deficiencies of the system. Read More

Crappy interface embarrasses Sulu on national television—not cool

Wanna Bet is a new show on ABC wherein celebrities bet on whether “ordinary” people can accomplish extraordinary things. Whichever celebrity has the most money at the end of the program gets to donate it to the charity of his or her choice. The way it works is that the show introduces the ordinary person, describes the (usually very odd) action this person is going to attempt, and the celebrities write down their prediction and bet amount. The attempt is made, the person succeeds or fails, and then the celebrities reveal their bets to much fanfare.

So far so good, right? The trouble is that there is some kind of disconnect in the betting process. On the first episode George Takei (better known as Sulu from Star Trek) excitedly revealed that he had guessed correctly and had bet $20,000. The show’s hosts, however, informed him he had only bet $2,000. For anyone not employed as a designer of interactive systems, it looked like George Takei was having a senior moment. It was embarrassing. The other celebrities on the show spent the rest of the episode pretending to have flubbed their bets to make up for it.

So where’s the failure here? George Takei is getting on in years; maybe he’s just not very comfortable with technology. Leaving off a zero is an easy mistake, right? Maybe, except that in the very next episode of the show, the same thing happened to comedian Melissa Peterman who thought she bet $5,000 but “really” bet $6,000. She’s only 37 and sharp as a whip. The show is now two for two, and I would argue there is a failure in the system. Read More

The Birds Nest & the television experience


Amazement operated on many levels during the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. During each performance, my mind struggled to process what I was seeing. What is this? How in the world did they pull this off? Where does an idea like this even come from?

TV: These small boxes will now take the form of a keyboard, and the keyboard will sprout a peach blossom.

Doug: … Huh.

TV: Now the small boxes, which have made precise, machine-like movements for the last ten minutes, will reveal that humans have been operating them the whole time.
Doug: … Wait, what? … How …
TV: Now a globe will rise, and dozens of people will fly around it in precise circles.
Doug’s brain: [explodes]

In a Wahington Post editorial, Roger K. Lewis recently wrote that NBC didn’t once mention the architects of the venue, Beijing National Stadium. Hmm. That’s funny. I didn’t mention them during the telecast either, but that’s because my brain had been reduced to a pre-verbal state.

Read More

You’ve got to hear it to believe it

Art house movies always seem to reveal new possibilities. Last week I watched Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle, a deep dive into one of the world’s most fascinating athletes &mdash French football god and legendary hothead Zinedine Zidane.

The film spans a single game, and dozens of cameras are trained on Zidane for the game’s 90 minutes. Throughout, you’re connected to Zidane &mdash pressed up against his face, attached to his hip as he glides through the defense, drifting around him as he scans the field. You’re also immersed in the sound of the event &mdash chatter between players, the sound of cleats cutting into the ground, the distant crowd roar, and strange periods of silence.


Zinedine Zidane, from the film Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle, (translation: Zidane, a 21st century portrait)

It’s the sound that really did it for me. The gasps for breath, the immediate shifts in the pace of footsteps, the ka-chunk of the foot hitting the ball, the zzzzzip of the ball on top of the grass. If you applied this super hi-fi sound to sports I watch all the time &mdash NBA basketball, for instance &mdash the end result would be incredibly compelling.
Read More