Technology is pretty great these days, it’s kind of amazing the things it can do. Being the innovator that I am though -I’m always looking for a little extra. What can we add, what can we tweak, how far can this really grow? In this innovative industry, designers need some time to explore how to design more creative and original interfaces. Which leads me to a little contraption you are likely very familiar with. From the early days of TiVo on… DVRs have actually been around for awhile. But, how much has the technology really changed or advanced? Don’t you ever find yourself thinking, “I wish my DVR could… “? Well, I wish that my DVR could get to know me. I mean really get to know me -well enough to anticipate what I’ll want to watch, when I’ll want to watch it, and what I’ve decided I’m sick of. In my opinion, these interactions have a lot of potential to make the user experience easier, more fun, and a lot more beneficial to the viewer.
To start, it’s necessary to lay a strong foundation by being sure you’ve got a solid User Interface in place since UI is the component that people see and interact with. Here is where we design how everything is laid out and how it all appears to users. So, what exactly would I be laying out if I could? What do I want my DVR to do? And, how will this work?
Well, all of this only works if the DVR knows who I am. So, it has to be built it in a way that the DVR is asking, “Who is watching?” To do this, you need to build a profile of people who use the DVR. The user must be prompted to enter the names of the people that live in the house and use the DVR. Why will this work? People are creatures of habit. Mom may watch DVR during the day, one of the kids in the afternoon, dad watches DVR in the evening, teenagers watch the DVR late at night, etc. For the sake of a successful UI, this profile menu should be clean, direct, and easily accessible.
This will not be an instantaneous effect, and in the beginning the DVR may have no idea who to try to default to. But eventually, over time, it will learn your patterns. (minor variations in patterns shouldn’t change everything overnight, i.e. someone gets sick and watches the DVR all day doesn’t mean that everything has changed.) Once my DVR gets to know me a bit, these are a few things I wish it would do next. I think that each of these options has great potential to improve user experience:
1) Record Series Premiers: This is especially relevant to genres, and related genres, that I have indicated that I enjoy in my profile. I want my DVR to tell me that it’s been recorded and allow me to indicate if I am interested in watching it. Then, remind me to watch it after a few days. If I am interested in it and I haven’t watched it yet -then automatically record additional shows that air in the series.
2) New Season Premiers: This, again, relates to genres that I have already indicated that I enjoy. Again, I want the DVR to tell me that it has recorded it and allow me to indicate if I am interested in watching it. Then, again, remind me to watch it after a few days. If I am interested in it, even if I haven’t watched it yet, then automatically continue to record additional shows in the series. I’d like it to also ask me about previous seasons to help me get caught up before I watch a season premier.
3) Connect me to Previous Seasons: This would include providing a way that I can start a show from the beginning by using Netflix, Hulu, etc. to start me out at the beginning of the series or pick up where I left off in a show. I want my DVR to give me a quick way to indicate that I have already seen an episode or an entire season so that I can quickly move on to the next episode. At the end of a show in a series the DVR should then give me the option to start the next show automatically.
4) Automatically Record “Event Shows”: Now that my DVR knows who I am it should be able to anticipate what live award shows, major sporting events, etc. that I would be interested in. I want my DVR to keep me up to date on the things people will be talking about tomorrow.
5) Get Smarter About Things I May Want to Watch: Let me rate and review shows that I’ve watched. That way it knows what shows I like and can suggest other shows that I may want to watch based on information compared to similar things others have submitted. Other people might like show X and show Y and I liked show X so maybe I’ll like show Y. Let me choose genres that I enjoy (profiled genres) and determine the genres that I enjoy by the shows that I watch and rate (inferred genres). Use this data to determine shows that I might like in the future.
6) Allow Me To Record Shows I See Advertised on Commercials: I’d like the DVR to just give me the option to record a show I’ve never seen as the show pops up on a commercial. It would be nice to have an option to record that specific episode (to try it out) or to record the series. Now I know you are thinking that the whole broadcast medium would have to change to support this type of technology; but, wouldn’t it be interesting to able to use a “Soundhound” like technology to hear what show is being shown, and then give me the option to record it? This way you don’t have to reinvent the proverbial television broadcast mechanism.
7) Use Commercials for Interaction: Once You have built a “Soundhound” like technology into the DVR and can hear what is being shown, you can now make commercials interactive and ask some questions, interact on social media, learn more about the person watching, and use it to determine what commercials are actually being watched and which are being skipped or ignored because someone left the room. OK, call me crazy, but advertisers could now figure out a way to give users credit on their television provider bill for commercials that they actually watch and then rate in real time. Whoa, can you feel the paradigm shift…
Netflix has actually decided to launch “Netflix Profiles” in an effort to improve user experience in a similar way to a few suggestions I’ve made. They are creating profiles for specific users so that all suggestions for TV series/movies are individualized instead of mashed up together as a big group. You won’t be recommended Barney when you’re trying to find a Sci-Fi flick. Improving further on this concept, you can introduce profiles for a combination of people. (Ex: you and your spouse or you and one of your children) You can combine up to 5 users. Profiles are customizable (profile picture) and can be synced up with Facebook so that you can receive suggestions based on what your friends are watching. (Nice Job Netflix, way to get creative.)