With the latest updates, the XBOX 360 is able to show live TV via Verizon’s FIOS service. For Kinect owners, this enables a vision of a fully gesture controlled TV. Swipe your hand left/right to change channels, up/down to change volume, and do a backflip to return to the channel you were previously watching. Wonderful.
Well, wonderful in theory, that is. But in reality, I’m not so sure. First, I’ll get past the concern of my TV randomly changing channels when I gesticulate wildly during a hockey game (Go Habs!) and just assume it only does it when I want it to. I’m going to move to the part of the conversation of “how much does this help me as a TV watcher?”
How does it help?
If I don’t need a remote control, at all, I’d say it’s a nice improvement (though as you’ll read below, this is pretty close to impossible). With a caveat: it needs to work in such a way that every “command” is completely memorable. If there’s a risk that I’ll forget how to Pause, Record, or access my DVR menu, and I’ll ever need to reach for that remote, it’s a done deal. From my experience ranging from Siri on the iPhone to early gesture technology (my first ever was the original Black & White game), the moment the technology becomes semi-reliable it is functionally equivalent to unreliable. And, dropped calls not withstanding, people for the most part do not regularly use unreliable technology.
How doesn’t it help?
Well, since there’s no way the gestures can replace on-screen menus (the dreaded 10′ UI), ultimately all the gesture does is replace a physical remote (in other words – there’s no gesture for “I want to watch The Office from my DVR” or “change to channel 704″). So the user still has to deal with their sluggish, painful to use EPG (electronic program guide), navigate the tedious DVR menus, etc etc etc. Which begs the question – is waving your hand “up” really a “Great” improvement to pushing “up” on a remote? I’d file this under the “not-so-much” category.
There’s a lot to be said for the transformation of TV. There’s a lot of new functionality coming. There’s a lot of new services coming. This is about the most exciting time for innovation and change in the television industry that I’ve ever seen. This also directly implies we’re going to see a lot of gimmickry, under which gesture controls firmly sits in my opinion (though ZDNet thinks it’s the bomb – but hey, to each their own).
But then again, if it lets people put down their poop-laden remotes, I guess that does make the world a better place.