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Mar 10, 2005: Alternative Interfaces to TV Programs

Jim Leftwich has designed and built just about everything, from ultrasound machine interfaces to airplanes. His Summit talk was a personal travelogue through thirty years of mind-boggling changes in the world of design. Note to all concerned: an afternoon of brainstorming with Jim would make for an ideal 40th birthday present.

Jim's talk made me wonder: has anyone designed an interface to a specific time segment of TV programming (e.g., "tonight" or "next week") that can help us visualize what's on and navigate to programs by means other than time slots and program titles? In other words, a visualization of what's on tonight by local-national-global coverage, political leanings, target audiences, genre, etc?

I'm fairly TV-ignorant, so slap me down if Tivo or something else already provides this. But considering the breadth and scope of programming, not to mention the commercial opportunities, new overview interfaces to segments of TV programming seem like a great challenge for designers.

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Comment: zoja (Mar 11, 2005)

The example of what is the maximum of 'personalized search' today on iTV is probably TiVO wish list option / http://www.tivo.com/1.2.2.asp
Lately, Microsoft presented some new features to their iTV service /demo at mms://wm.microsoft.com/ms/tv/ncta04/Microsoft_TV_IPG_1_6_Tutorial_English.wmv
As a conclusion, those are the most representative examples of iTV solutions used by majority of public with a little advance on level of navigation and usability.

Therefore, I strongly agree that this is still a little to no progress in interface design and in IA.
This IS a great challenge to designers.
I would just underline one of the problems that should be developed concerning iTV interface - the usability criteria; they are overtaken from pc and web navigation, and therefore totally inappropriate for TV.

The topic of my last year master degree project was 'Research/Development of iTV interface', and I treated this question from the graphic design point of view. One of the proposals I made was an introduction of intelligent agent to the EPG (electronic program guide). I tried to make the multi-criteria search be visually better represented and easier to comprehend to the user/tv viewer.

One interesting examples of another alternative proposal for the iTV interface:
Hyper TV http://www.industrie.gouv.fr/FranceTech/francais/cyber/demoza/HyperTV/indexTVpetit.html

And since I live in France, I have to say that here the situation is moving slowly, the usage of iTV services is still on a low level. Lots of work to be done :)

Comment: Lou (Mar 11, 2005)

Zoja, thank you for the examples and analysis. I think the problem will only grow as we start accessing television programs side-by-side with programs from Tivo and downloaded from the Web. So I imagine your thesis might become a best-seller. :-)

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