Let's Talk About Television Design

July 3, 2017

“We believe the future of television is apps.” It was a bold declaration that Tim Cook made during an event in September of 2015. Since then, apps for television became more prevalent. The App Store on the Apple TV, for example, currently has over 1600 video apps.

 

Photo: Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash 


But despite the innovation with apps, television still feels incomplete. The television traditionally lies in front of a sloppy entanglement of wires. Wires that connect the TV to the cable box, the Blue-Ray player, an Xbox or a Playstation, a set top box, sometimes a Slingbox or TiVo box, and most importantly, the cable box.

 

The entire TV experience relies on the user navigating through an array of user interfaces between different devices. It’s not pretty. And with apps in the mix, the user has to interact with even more separate user interfaces — different aesthetics and different arrangements.

 

The TV is in desperate need of simplification. The ideal TV would have one device that replaces all the attachments. It would have the sharpest display, the clearest sound, advanced processing power (especially with graphics), a large storage capacity, and an all-reaching user interface.

 

The channel experience would change as well. Surfing through a series of live-streaming channels makes a great user experience. But the experience could be enhanced even further if the channels become more interactive.

 

A great example of this is the MLB app for Apple TV.

 

The app gives you a livestream of different games and also allows you to minimize the livestream and see some statistics of the game as well as the scores of other games.

 

Imagine having a system in which the users could switch to different channels and use an “interact” button of sorts to access custom-made features within the channel. Sports channels could follow MLB’s example and News channels could add additional stories and headlines onto the screen.

 

Each channel would basically have hidden functionality similar to that of a standalone app. But rather than accessing them through a menu, the user would access them through the channel system.

 

From there, users open a menu around the live TV stream. There, they could access their DVR, streamed content, purchased movies, and other apps. Rather than switching between different inputs, all of this would occur on a singular user interface.

 

Now this can’t take place over night. Many people around the world still have lots of DVDs and have entirely different setups at home. Even with recent FCC goals of reforming the cable box, cable companies would still likely be unwilling to give up on their domination of that industry.

 

There is a lot of room for improvement with television design. Television is in need of massive interface unification and simplification. None of the major tech companies accomplished this yet, but hopefully as advancements in smartphone and computer technology begin to slow down, companies will begin to explore changing the television industry.

 

Ryan King is an aspiring journalist. Aside from people, there are three things in life that he cares about: politics, comic books, and computers. In all of these areas, he tries his best to present contrarian views and be an effective devil’s advocate. It is also his goal to spotlight important stories or ideas that don’t get a lot of attention.

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