Nintendo Unveils New Game Controller: A TV Remote?

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

Gee, could I have been more wrong with my previous post? One thing you gotta love about me is I'll point out evidence that challenges anything I say. So I found a news item that contradicts my last point that there's no reason to reinvent the wheel in interactive television interface devices: follow the leaders (video game providers).

If you saw Tom Cruise in Minority Report, then you know that using an interactive device that works in three dimenstions is the latest example of life imitating art. In the case of the Nintendo remote:

The controller's most notable feature — invisible in still images — is that players will be able to affect onscreen movement by moving the controller through the air. With the help of two sensors positioned on each side of their TV, Revolution gamers will be able to twist, tilt and flick the controller in order to aim in first-person shooters, steer in racing games and zoom in for a closer view of onscreen action.

Well, how interesting, indeed, but where is the research data to indicate whether users (especially experienced ones) will want to switch? It's a tall order. Another research opportunity. To read more about it, go to MTV News.

Ubiquitous Television and AngelTrax

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

Those of us who teach new media wonder sometimes if our colleagues in more traditional media studies appreciate the difficulty inherent in being a student of new media (I'm including myself in that student category). When I pay a visit to the home theater/etc. store I sometimes find myself surprised at something new. (Although I was an early TiVo adopter and then proponent, I walked right past their displays because I thought the Shrek-like logo implied it was a gimmicky product if not one intended for children; it even reminded me of the dying WebTV displays.)

Yesterday I paid a long overdue visit to my favorite store and got into a conversation with a computer salesperson (I'm still using a boat anchor...uh, I mean a 2000 Dell Inspiron "laptop" with some missing keys; remember, my parents grew up as members of the Greatest Generation and also survived the depression, so I was taught to be frugal!). I noticed a few of the laptops had a rather large, transparent advertisement for a service that allowed you to take your existing home TV service and "broadcast" it wirelessly to your laptop. You can, I was told, not only change channels from your house but from any location where you are on the Internet. Are you kidding me? Policy wags, think how this can affect arguments against allowing Internet distribution of video programming by individuals. I decided long ago when portable TV sets found their way onto the beach that TV will finally have caught up to radio in ubiquity.

I haven't tried the product from a company called Interactive Video Solutions (how about that!) and the brand name for its consumer products is AngelTrax. Yes, I'm aware others are working on similar products. But the home video store had an in-store demo which sent the television signal from about 125 feet away to the laptop we were looking at. It was not broadcast video (don't worry, it will be) but it was watchable. As for putting the signal on the Internet so I could watch it literally anywhere I can get a connection, well the innate researcher in me will have me doing more reading.

New HDTV Set Over Your Fireplace? Are you nuts?

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

As more and more people read this blog, I have to fight what I was taught by my parents of the Greatest Generation, and that is to be humble. I don't know it all and learn new things every day, but I do have a lot of research and experience from which to draw.

One example of my expertise that probably outdoes any other academic in my field is that I took a seasonal sales job at a large, national chain store that gets most of its profits from home theater where I worked. This is what's called participant observation. For 2 months I watched to see how people made up their minds in buying a new TV set, and especially how they tried to decide if it was time to step up to HDTV. It seemed that many of the HDTV purchasers were actually buying their second or third HDTV. For the record, I personally believe this Christmas season will see a dramatic rise in the sale of HDTVs as the diffusion curve begins to accelerate.

Did you see my earlier post about the "odd love affair" with distorted aspect ratios (people taking a 4 by 3 traditional TV picture and stretching it to fit their 16 by 9 presumably HDTV monitor)? Well, here's another oddity. People are putting their new, plasma (or other) flat screen TVs above their fireplaces! OK, we will hope they don't depend on the fireplace to heat the home, but that's now what amazes me.

All our lives we have basically had our main TV sets close to eye level when sitting or lying on the couch. Putting a larger screen above the fire place dramatically changes both the angle of viewing and, of course, the need for an interior decorator to reassign the furniture in the room, In fact, with the TV above the fireplace, we are returning the family to sitting around the hearth.

I haven't seen any recent research on back or neck strain related to watching the TV high on the wall, but if I work in this same home theater store again this pre-Christmas season, I will be asking if people are still buying the installation kits or, possibly, taking them down. Now remember when you were a kid lying on the floor with your head in your hands. Is that even possible with the TV set so high?

So once again, you've heard it here first. I personally speculate that people are thinking of these displays as being like paintings that are/were hung above the fireplace. This position also will do little, I would think, to encourage people to multitask on their wall screen (e.g., merge TV viewing with, say, chatting or email checking).

If anyone reading this knows what research has been done on the new hearth in the home, please post something here for all to read. I'll try to come pack to this post with an illustration. I know Russ Neuman and friends were arguing at MIT years ago that HDTV wasn't necessary as configured at that time because at typical viewing distances, the additional clarity was not all that noticeable.


Video Games and Interactive Television

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein. The following is a draft posting.

Today I saw the article, Advertisers Follow the Audience to Video Games* and it reminded me of yet another catalyst to interactive television: video games. The opportunity video games bring to the adoption and diffusion of interactive television in the United States may seem obvious: video games are by just about any definition, well, interactive.

The real benefit of video games to interactive television may be more transparent, and that is the video game interface. Much research has been conducted on usability and the human-computer interface. Indeed, the study of this interaction spawned an academic field of its own years ago, particularly within the library and computer sciences.

Is there a need for promoters of interactive television to reinvent the wheel by looking into a plethora of possible interfaces between the viewer and the content? I would argue, of course, not. Yet one of the most bizarre phenomena in the consumer electronics field actually is the presence of an absurd number of remote controls, most incompatible with one another despite a finite number of television control functions.

Interactive television has been in use in the UK for years, and they have already established the use of simple colors for major functions. For example, if viewing text blocks on screen, the blue button allows the user to go from block to block, the yellow button proceeds to the next group including overflow text, the green button goes to the next existing page, with the red button returning to the previous selection.

In this Checklist for user interface design for TV receivers, the guidebook says:

People are most familiar with the standard four colour buttons – red, green, yellow and blue – typically used with analogue TV to control Teletext (FastText). Ensure that the colours used are clear and unambiguous shades of those colours and could not be mistaken for another colour. Where possible, consistency with analogue is desirable. Having more than one button of any colour may confuse the user when the on-screen display gives options that require the user to respond using the colour buttons. For example, there are sometimes two red buttons on a remote control – one located with the other three standard colours and a red ‘standby’ button which may result in the system being switched off when the user is instructed to ‘press red for interactive’.

OK, so how did I drift so far from video games and interactive television. Well, the Brits are as familiar with their 4 color remotes as our U.S. video gamers are with their video game controllers. In other words, the U.S. already has a tried and true interface device for interactive television. Remember, you read it here first. Will non-gaming baby boomers and their elders be left out in the cold? Sounds like a good question for a research grant to address.

* In this article, "media guru Jack Myers" is quoted as forecasting broadcast television advertising to recede from an 8.6 percent market share in 2005 to an even 8 percent share in 2006. Broadcast, which excludes Hispanic TV, is forecast to be the only medium to lose revenues next year.


Radio Killed the Video Star

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

Well, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I once again lost a post in draft mode when I decided to use the spell checker. So, shame on me. I guess I have to tie a string around my finger to remind myself that I can't spell check a posting without losing it.

My late, great father was an historian who was accused of never leaving a stone unturned when he took on a research project. When I heard that, I learned where it came from for me. I also have history in my blood.

Radio, once again, can teach those who are willing to learn what the future of television on the Internet is. As developers at RealAudio and other places perfected compression techniques for digital and live, streaming audio, radio stations were put into an awkward position: was Internet audio a threat or an opportunity? (Personally and professionally, I believe all established media should look at new media as presenting opportunities because the technology genie cannot be put back into the bottle.) Just as many radio stations initially tried to fight off Internet distribution, television providers are in the same position. Today, radio has embraced digital transmission via the Internet through a multitude of program aggregators if nor their own origination (e.g., via their own web sites). Copyright was thought to be a possibly insurmountable obstacle to radio on the Internet, but those issues were solved.

Therefore, history teaches us that there will be Internet television and that today's television program providers will be online (and does anyone really think that Hollywood doesn't want a new revenue stream?). Don't believe me? "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it."

Internet Television

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as (c) 2005, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein.

Because the U.S. has been so slow to introduce interactive television, by definition the Internet will play a very important role in the rollout of iTV in the U.S. While, of course, it makes sense that the Internet can be the feedback channel for an interactive television systtem, I suspect that the Internet will become an interactive television medium in its own right. So, fellow new media travelors, I suggest watching developments with IPTV (another reason, by the way, that interactive television in the U.S. is not a possibility or even a probability, but a certainty).

Here is a site that's a good place to check out now and then to see what's on TV on the Internet, wwitv.com.