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A Touch Less Remote: Part 6 of 6

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Vicky Spengler Vicky Spengler | 10:40 UK time, Friday, 30 April 2010

The BBC R&D Prototyping team has been investigating how multi-touch software could support television viewing in the future. In this final blog post Maxine Glancy and Connor Graham summarise what users made of the prototypes and draw some conclusions to assist in the design of future projects.

As covered in previous posts, we developed two prototypes we wanted to test. The first application supports the planning of an evening's viewing and the second builds on the idea that a group of people in a living room might like to interact with a television programme together rather than individually.

We included questions about the prototypes in home visits we organised for a wider study looking at usage of second screens in the home. This meant we could get a real sense of whether these new applications would meet users' expectations, to see if and how they might fit into the lives of the participants and their families, and to determine what the impact of their introduction might be.

We followed up the home visits with a focus group involving some of the household members we visited. At this group session we firstly asked participants to discuss their agreement and disagreement with particular statements about the demonstrations drawn from the home visit. We then asked them to use the demonstrations in a guided way and had a discussion around some key points.

With the first prototype the group identified some critical issues that would be need to be addressed in a more fully developed application. They didn't fully understand the way 'sources' of recommendations had been presented, were unsure how they would refine a schedule once it was running, and were uncertain how one person's preferences related to and affected another's.

To fix these issues there needs to be clearer labelling of 'sources', functions added to pause or override the recommended playlist, and a way for one user to take priority over another as this is the reality in most homes! On a more positive note many found the idea that their viewing habits and preferences could be captured appealing and this was encouraging.

With the second prototype there were, in our opinion, no critical issues. People generally understood what was happening. What is interesting though is that our participants were far more interested in the idea of multi-touch applications targeted at individual consumption and from this evidence we believe these are more likely to gain acceptance in the home.

In the multi-user game format we tested you can compare your own collective scores with those of another home, such as a friend's, and with an overall national average. This stimulated discussion about the place of the household in the national context. Our participants would be far more interested in playing against people they know than comparing their scores with the rest of the country.

They participants also felt it was essential that their interaction counted for something so in the case of an Apprentice game that the votes contributed to the outcome of the programme. Simply playing along with a programme is not enough.

While the participants enjoyed playing with the multi-touch device there was an overall resistance to it. This was partly at the idea of another piece of furniture in the home but also because they assumed the multi-touch display would be incredibly expensive.

What we found most interesting from the study comes as two related thoughts. Firstly the fact large screens are normally situated in landscape format enforces a way of interacting with them as people position themselves in particular ways. There is clearly scope for developing screens that allow interaction from any angle. Secondly several participants seemed to want the applications to support individual as opposed to group consumption of media, possibly on a separate screen.

There is an opportunity here to start with the social richness of particular situations and design back from these. The multi-touch experiences should be built to draw on as opposed to enforce particular arrangements of people. It's also really important that these new technologies support and complement the use of personal devices that are becoming increasingly prevalent such as smartphones. This is an area we're very excited by and will be exploring further.


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