3 min read

Bringing The Ten Foot User Interface To The Web

It seems that the battle for the 50 inch screen is finally happening. Boxee has been growing like a weed and Google is finally entering the foray with Google TV. There’s also chatter that Apple will finally turn the Apple TV from a hobby into a real business. I think this is great and something whose time has come. Smartphones are great, but there are hundreds of millions of HDTVs being sold every year that need innovation.

There’s one thing that worries me after hearing Google’s plans – they’re trying to take the desktop experience of the web and bring it to the TV. This is just WebTV all over again. The web isn’t meant for the tv in it’s current form. The same reason you wouldn’t put a desktop app on an iPhone without rewriting the UI is the same reason you shouldn’t put that app on the TV. It just doesn’t translate well. The web WAS meant for TV, just with a ten foot UI.

Quick background:

3 foot UI– desktop/laptop experience. 3feet from your face
1 foot UI– smartphone. 1 foot from your face.
10 foot UI– TV. 10 feet from your face.

We need to start making “apps” for the 10 foot experience. There’s two ways we could go about it:

One: Create yet another group of silos where the tv screen requires different apps for googletv, appletv, boxed, roku,etc. This just sucks.

Two: Create a simple open source UI framework similar to jquery, specifically JQTouch, that easily builds 10 foot interfaces optimized for 1080p resolution (maybe 720p too). Let developers build one site for the ten foot experience that works across with a webkit browser. Then we can just translate that app to whichever platform(s) win. Here’s how I propose it works:

A Standard Set Of Input interactions

Backspace takes you back, space is pause, and the volume up key puts the volume up. I want to know that my app will workmproperly with inputs. The same way jqtouch can recognize/listen for motions such as swipe/tap is how this should listen for motion inputs as well for Wii type remotes as well.  Why?  This would enable web developers to create a new class of motion sensitive games like the Wii.

HTML 5 Rich

Video is a big part of the tv experience, duh. If were going to do media, let’s make it HTML5. Let’s also make sure we have support for things like WebGL and Canvas. I think games can do very well here. (side note: the standard input interactions should have a listener function for wiimote like accelerometer inputs). I also think location is huge. I want what I’m interacting with to be location aware. I’d love a foodspotting 10 foot UI.

Some Human Interface Guidelines

this should be really loose, yet inspirational. boxee has done a great job of this. We get to set the ground rules and if we can show designers/devs how to properly make a 10 UI app, that’s AWESOME. I don’t want to see 10,000 of the same app UI, but I do want to see 10,000 awesome apps.

Plug and play For Existing Sites

This is way above my head technically I think, but I’d love if the basic framework could “10footify” a site. The same way WordPress plugins can make a blog have an iPhone ready site, id love to see that happen for the 10foot interface.

Some consensus on how ads will integrate

If my tv tells me I’ve won two free iPod nanos, it will get thrown out the window. Let’s try to make room for ads, but let’s see if we can make them inspiring.

This is just a quick list, but it’s certainly a start. I’d love to see some prototype apps that fit into the ten foot UI space. Ie- someone create a Twitter cliemt that is web based but designed fully for the living room.

Jason Kincaid also posed the question to the Press Event during Google I/O. PM from Google and Adobe CEO gave their question on the ten foot experience for Google TV.  I’m not buying their answer.  Sure the web is available from day one.  It was available from day one in 2005 on my Windows Mobile phone, but it was just shit.  It’s a great start, but if this is going to succeed it needs to really fit right.  I’m sure Adobe will make great authoring tools, but they will probably take too long to do it.  I’d rather see someone make something like JQTouch.  The web works too rapidly to wait for Adobe.  We didn’t wait for them to create something like JQtouch/JQuery and we won’t wait for them to create something for the ten foot experience.  I do hope they prove me wrong and release something ASAP.