Bridging Dream Technology With Social Reality

When Pranav Mistry started his exploration about eight years back, he started with an idea.  That idea was to use everyday objects and gestures in the real world and leverage their interaction with the digital world.  In the recently posted video on TED, (Technology, Entertainment, Design) “The Thrilling Potential of Sixth Sense Technology,” Mistry demos several tools and applications that “bridge” the physical world with the digital world.  After watching the nearly 15 minute clip, my first reaction was, “That is super cool!  But, who is going to wear a video camera and projector around their neck all the time?”  Without taking anything away from Mistry’s undeniable genius…let’s be realistic.

From a consumer products standpoint, the future of technology is not going to involve surgically embedding cell phones into our hands like Inspector Gadget and it is certainly not going to have us teleporting from NY to LA, as Star Trek might have you think.  At this point, the future of technology, at least the next big wave as I see it, is the integration of the television and the social web.  Some might argue major mobile development is next, although from what I can see, the mobile revolution is already here.  With the ability to access real web content rather than just the “mobile web,” Android phones that now rival your old laptop, and the three letter word you may have heard some buzz around of late, the “app”, I think the boom has since begun.

Integrating the home entertainment experience with the social web is something many of us thought we would have seen a lot sooner.  Some of us thought Apple TV would lead the way when it began shipping in March of 2007, but even that device hasn’t managed to merge the two platforms. Instead, the Apple TV acts more like a digital hard drive with access to iTunes that happens to also have the ability to play Youtube videos (with keypad scrolling comparable to the the infamous MacBook Wheel – Hoax).

According to Steve Rubel of Forbes.com: “The New York Times recently reported Twitter will soon become one of its top 10 traffic drivers and that Facebook alone grabs 25% of the entire Web’s page views.”  So it is clear that when people are online they are overwhelmingly engaging on a social platform.  That all being said and according to Mr. Rubel, “To date, however, social networking has largely remained a two-foot experience. We engage using our PCs or, increasingly, via mobile devices.”  Both Mr. Rubel and I adamantly agree, that’s all about to change.

Having recently tossed my Time Warner cable aside for the cheaper, faster and “IP” driven Verizon Fios, I can tell you that our hopes and dreams (for us geeks at least) are not far off.  Just this past July, Verizon Fios integrated Facebook and Twitter into their set top box functionality.  As I sat on my couch after the installation I was finally able to enjoy my wide screen HDTV in ways I had only dreamed (again, for us geeks at least).  Accessing the widgets menu I was able to link into facebook and twitter checking out friends latest albums and even up to date tweets relative to the content I was actually watching.

The integration of TV and the social web is here, and it’s only a matter of time before someone turns the TV into an open source platform.  I wonder if Fios is developing their TV version of the iTunes App store, I can tell you this for sure…first one who does, wins big!

If you’re a brand, here are a few things to consider as these technologies merge closer and closer. With on-demand, DVR and now social network interaction, there’s more to “do” than ever when sitting in front of the TV (and it’s all in the consumer’s control).  Without as much opportunity to “interrupt” a user experience, how can YOU become the “content” that the consumer tunes into?

Also, we’ve all been familar with the term “three screens” for some time now.  Given my comments above, and the convergence of tv and web, how might you be able to leverage the 3rd screen in such ways that may enhance and compliment the first two?  Here’s a recently released iPhone app that’s headed in the right direction: RedEye

Verizon, Time Warner, Comcast, RCN, Cablevision, DirectTV: these guys currently own the hardware inside all of your consumers’ homes.  Today, they also control the software (essentially, the content) inside the hardware.  Who’s going to offer them the best deal?  Hope you are ready to negotiate.

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