Blink. Rethink TV.
Blink. I am in the TV.
Blink. But the TV is broken….and may be dead.
I recall the first signs of TV cracking like an egg. Prime example, Janet Jackson’s nip-slip during the 2004 Superbowl half-time show, alongside Justin Timberlake. In that moment, time-shifting (the ability to pause, rewind, and fast-forward the TV show you’re watching) upgraded from analog VCR to Digital DVR. Viewers digitally paused, replayed and gawked at the infamous half-second transgression, more than any moment of the game and the multi-million dollar commercials that paid for it. To this day, “Nipplegate” is the most watched video for DVR platform pioneer, TiVo.
Before VCRs there was no time machine, or “time shifting” of TV at home. One was stuck on the network’s one-to-many schedule for programming. And if you had to run to the lavatory, you held it in until there was a commercial. (For me, commercials were great excuses to do high school homework!)
Nowadays connected viewers via handsets and tablets are not only driving the rise of Social TV and cord-cutting from cable subscriptions, their activities are opening new windows for real-time multi-screen experiences . The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently published a study that found 50% of cellphone owners use their phones while TV channel surfing. And the third screens, smart watches, are not far behind to offer more media fragmentation. With all these methods of consuming and interacting with video, it is not surprising children have little patience with live TV, not understanding why we can’t simply “make it go fast”, i.e. record the future so we can skip over the commercials.
For that to happen, we must move beyond breaking down TV into short-form video over the internet to more personalization and curation. At home, I am paying over $100/month for 1000 cable channels, 90% of which I do not use. Set top boxes like Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast internet video stream into the living and solve TV wasted in the long tail by freeing up cable’s bundled model and on-demand distribution. But for TV to truly mature, the next battleground for interactivity is virtual reality/augmented reality. Similar to the myth that we only use 10% of our brain capacity and we could achieve superhuman levels like telepathy and psychokinesis by increasing brain utilization, virtual reality could enhance learning and create a non-linear, multi-screen experience spanning connected devices –IP TV, handset, tablet—and the social platforms that link them together.
Marcel Proust divined “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Interpreted another way, the voyage of TV is not in seeking new TV channels but having new eyes like a VR headset to see the channels differently. Passive TV watching and channel surfing frosted forms of blindness over our eyes for a long time, growing our appetite for the braille of 4D interactivity.
In 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus for $2B for its Virtual Reality Headset technology, Oculus Rift. They plan to build on their face-time app z-like dimensions adapted to convivial settings to enhance their social networking. Sony also plans to release Project Morpheus the immersive 3D head-tracking helmet next year. Imagine enjoying dug out seats at the World Series baseball game, or memorizing a language like Russian and studying for a year abroad in Russia, or bringing the boardroom to the beach smelling salt and seaweed in the air – just by putting on visors in your home. As a tool for education, VR may make us smarter. We can learn Latin in two hours or move a can of spinach with our mind. With millennials’ DNA pre-encoded with online education, researching on the Internet, self-teaching to instructional videos on YouTube and distance learning powered by video technology, they can invent the future and prototype endlessly. None of the associated materials costs to experiment, practice, and train will prohibit them.
Blink. The TV that I am.
In Virtual Reality, the television set is not broken like a machine, it breathes like a human; time-shifting is not triggered by DVRs but rather when we can plunge artifacts like the videocassette inside the machine of our own bodies, our own human stomachs to birth new stories; and as companies like Facebook and Google invest in telephony to share those stories without friction, the “boob-tube” dies with Superbowl 2004 and the resurrection of the TV experience will be signaled by every smartphone on the planet ringing simultaneously.