john christopher burns DESIGN


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Home Interface A gallery of interactivity

When your TV becomes (like) your computer.

2000-2001

Okay, you're watching Oprah, and you hit the menu button, and the picture squeezes back...

...and you can check your email, shop for food, purchase something you just saw advertised on the screen, or do some sort of activity that, by definition, goes beyond the passive interaction that the term 'couch potato' implies.

Part of the challenge of this sort of design is that it has to work in a simple, easy-to-understand way, it has to be experienced in the uniquely low-resolution environment of composite NTSC television, and it has to be manipulated with a remote control, using many fewer buttons than the average keyboard.

Oh, but there's more: this advanced functionality has to happen around the edges and in the margins of one of the most distracting elements around: ongoing, sound-on broadcast television. What's Oprah saying? Who cares, I'm trying to tell my TV that I want a pizza.

Cable operator AT&T Broadband (since subsumed into Comcast) was trying to figure out how much they could push the limits of the set-top box they planned to roll out. In so doing, I think they learned a lot about what TV viewers could figure out...lessons valuable as they roll out increasing amounts of on-demand content requiring its own smart interactive approaches.

This project again benefitted from my collaboration with my brother, James Burns, who executed some very sophisticated Flash programming to create an interactive experience that even worked with the simplest remote-control-like keystrokes.