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How Designers And Consumers Are Using Technology In The Home To Improve Their Lives [Sponsored]

How Designers And Consumers Are Using Technology In The Home To Improve Their Lives [Sponsored]
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Insight into new technology products/services and their applications in the home [Sponsored]

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 14 october 2011

Depending on whose research you read, estimates place the number of devices connected to the web as reaching upwards of 15 billion by the year 2015, which will enable nearly infinite connections between people, their consumer electronics such as smartphones, tablets, PCs and television sets and larger networked systems like power grids and even entire municipalities. While we might not be living in an age of full automation just yet, the development of more sophisticated algorithms, alongside an explosion of sensors to capture data from our surroundings, is imbuing our physical environments with a growing level of intelligence and awareness. This convergence of factors is changing the way we lead our daily lives and making an entirely new set of experiences and interactions possible, particularly within the context of the home.

Instant Search and Context

The home entertainment landscape is rapidly changing in the face of a number of factors. Culturally, we’ve reached a point where vanishing attention spans and a tendency towards multitasking behaviors are becoming the norm. Couple this with time-shifted viewing habits driven by DVRs and a growing availability of online content, and media channels and content producers are left competing for an already fractured audience. In an effort to bring some excitement back to appointment viewing, we’re seeing developers experiment with applications designed for mobile devices that deliver a level of utility and interactivity to television programming and commercials, particularly around live broadcasts.

The intelligent recognition technology behind applications like Shazaam, Umami, and Miso is capable of identifying what people are watching through a combination of audio and/or visual cues, which fundamentally changes the nature of how people search and access information, making the process instant, automatic and relevant. These partnerships between app developers and networks are bringing to the surface new scenarios that include serving up complementary information like character info, plot points and behind the scenes footage that relates to the show being watched, as well as social participation such as chatting with fellow viewers and live polling. However, these experiences only touch upon some of what’s looming on the horizon.

Immersive Experience

These experiences begin to get truly compelling when they enable audiences to engage more deeply with the content on their screens. One way we’re seeing this manifest is through retail concepts that envision a future where product placement and commercial advertising offer seamless portals into e-commerce sites. The latest working prototype comes by way of Mastercard Labs and their QkR Mobile Payments platform that is able to process visual (by way of QR codes) and audio signals from television broadcasts to enable an instant shopping experience. Once activated, users are able to browse and buy products directly through their smartphones, and conceivably without ever having to extricate themselves from the couch (save for accepting delivery).

Other creative applications point to a future where the plot lines of live TV shows evolve in real-time alongside audience participation, drawing viewers deeper into the action onscreen and blurring the lines between creators and consumers. Recent examples such as Current TV’s collaborative storytelling series Bar Karma and We R Interactive‘s transmedia project I Am Playr, hint at how these interactive scenarios might one day be possible. Another example of this fluid viewing experience is designer David Benque’s The Infinite Adventure Machine, a storytelling engine that utilizes Artificial Intelligence to create open-ended narratives, prompting users to fill in the details using their imaginations. And while this application might be limited from a visual standpoint, it’s interesting for its ability to offer near infinite variation.

Of course, these deeper engagements are not only contingent upon further advances in the software and hardware sectors, but on the willingness of broadcasters to rethink the ways that they create and make additional content available to their audiences. The standalone experience of watching a show or commercial isn’t going away anytime soon, particularly if it’s well constructed, but the ability to engage an audience through multiple touch points and make them more aware of what’s on offer is hard to ignore.

How do you use technology in the home?  Join the conversation on Twitter at #IntelEmp

A big thank you to our partner Intel, who is supporting this multi-part series about the role technology plays in all of our lives. Intel is dedicated to delivering the cutting edge tech innovations that allow us to turn our ideas and inspirations into reality.

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