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The User Experience: Why It Matters In Controlling Content

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Simplicity is key when putting content control in the hands of the end user, writes Menno Koopmans, senior VP subscription broadcasting at Universal Electronics.

Content is everywhere. It is being pushed into the living room via cable, satellite and broadband and is being delivered to multiple devices. OTT, set top boxes, games consoles and IPTV are fighting it out to be the main device that allows access to all of this content. While this may have significant advantages for the viewer in terms of choice, it presents a challenge to manufacturers who are all fighting to be the dominant presence in the room and deliverer of content.

When it comes to controlling content, regardless of where it comes from, the experience should be simple, intuitive and user friendly. Enter the remote control. After decades of evolution the remote control has remained more or less the same; or has it?

Changing the content delivery experience
Newer remote controls are using additional functionality, building on the push-button options. Controlling content using voice, motion and touch are, now, all options. Voice, for example, is playing a greater role in personalising the content delivery experience by enabling an entertainment system to identify the user and suggest appropriate content based on gender, viewing history, and age. The latter has excellent potential for enforcing parental controls for younger viewers.

Even apps can transform a viewer's smartphone into a remote control device, as well as a content discovery tool. It is not, however, likely that the smartphone will replace the remote control but will rather serve a complementary function and assist in delivering a more content-driven and personalised content delivery experience.

Remote control complexity
With all the content streaming into the living room, however, there is the potential for greater complexity and this is reflected in a number of remote controls that attempt to incorporate too many functions and options. Instead of adding more and more buttons or choices to the remote, what is needed to meet the demands of user-friendliness and intuitive control is a user interface that optimises the technology for individual usage.

The remote control typically harnesses one aspect of the living room ecosystem that can be made up of several components – television, DVD / Blu-ray player, set top box, games console. Ideally what is needed is a remote control that controls everything with absolute ease. The perfect state of play for manufacturers vying to be top of the control pyramid is therefore to have their remote as the one that controls everything.

Universal control in the living room
In terms of market demand, this is a practical and achievable objective. Ensuring that the remote control is compatible and able to be used universally with as little effort as possible is an important part of realising this goal. The remote control is also often an extension of the manufacturer's brand; devices are typically stored out of sight in cabinets leaving the remote as the sole, visible instance of the product.

The user experience will continue to be important, especially as the market moves toward using the cloud for content storage and this will impact on how the viewer consumes the content. The tables will turn; whereas in the past the viewer made a conscious choice of what to watch, now, content will be pushed to the user from the cloud based on past viewing behaviour or learned preferences. It is how this content will be controlled and explored in the first place that is key for content providers and, by extension, manufacturers.

User-friendly and intuitive design are two key features of many devices, but none more so than for the humble remote control. Viewers are spoilt for choice and, as a result, want to watch what they want, when they want and in the easiest way possible. In today's living room with so many streams of content and the power in the viewer's hand, user experience will ultimately determine the success (or failure) of the technology within that ecosystem.

The article is also available to read in BFV online.


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