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The Living Room Of The Future: Who Will Win The Battle For Control?

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The living room has evolved from the introduction of the television in the 1930s, where it competed with radio as the main source of family entertainment, to almost 90 years later, where the humble tube has been replaced by a plasma, LCD, or OLED version, writes Menno Koopmans, senior VP subscription broadcasting, Universal Electronics.

The television is no longer the hub of entertainment – rather it is just part of the entertainment ecosystem that can include myriad components ranging from DVD players, OTT boxes, set top boxes, games consoles, IPTV and more. Content is streaming into the living room, from a number of sources, via cable, satellite or broadband, and, as a result, the ability to control and interact with this content is increasingly growing in complexity.

With each device having its own remote control, device manufacturers and content or service providers are vying for a place at the top of the control pyramid. From a user perspective, consumers would like to watch what they want to, when they want to, and select content in the easiest way possible. The user experience is based on ease of use, particularly the remote control and user interface (UI). Too often the number of content choices and device options available create added complexity.

Every manufacturer would like to simplify the experience. But their idea of simplifying the user experience is to compel consumers to fill their living room with only their brand of products, controlled by one remote. The practicality of this, however, is not achievable on a large scale in terms of cost to consumer and buying patterns and the fact that television replacement cycles, for example, are becoming shorter.

A more realistic objective for device manufacturers and content providers is to ensure that their remote controls are market compatible, meaning that they can be used universally with as little effort on the part of the consumer as possible. This is an important element as the remote is often an extension of the brand. As it stands, devices are often hidden in cabinets, stowed behind doors, which leaves the remote control as the only visible element of the brand. As services move more to the cloud, there will be fewer devices in the home, which will make the remote control even more powerful in terms of brand awareness. The remote control that the easiest to set-up and offers the most compatibility with the electronic devices in the consumers home is likely to be the consumer favourite for controlling access to their content, no matter which device the content is on.

Remote controls making use of voice, motion and touch pads are beginning to affect the way in which viewers navigate through content and find new entertainment choices.. Biometrics, for example, can help create a very effective and simple personalised entertainment user experience. Through the use of voice, an entertainment system can identify the user and suggest content for them based on gender (an action movie versus a rom-com) or age (enforcing parental controls for younger viewers).

Smartphone control and content discovery apps are also becoming popular ways consumers can interact with their television content. While some may argue that the smartphone could replace the remote, it is more likely that it will perform a complementary role, working with the remote to deliver a more content-driven and personalised content discovery experience.

The emergence of the cloud for content storage will also influence how we consume entertainment content. Instead of the consumer making a deliberate choice to watch something, relevant and appropriate content will be pushed out to the user from the cloud based on his or her past behaviour and learned preferences.

From reading the news headlines in bed on a tablet in the morning, to watching the latest blockbuster movie on a smart television on a Friday night, the smart home of the future is just around the corner. Add to that mix control systems that manage our home environment, security, and lighting, and it's easy to see that the future of home entertainment control is very bright and very exciting.

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