My Vision for the Ultimate Smart TV

Image: © Samsung

Image: © Samsung

Many companies have tried to unleash the “smart” trend onto TV’s, but it hasn’t completely caught on. Samsung has a brand of Smart TV’s. So do Sony and LG. Google has a $30 plugin option dubbed chromecast that tries to make regular TV’s smarter. And, there’s rumors that Apple is looking into entering the TV market–maybe as soon as this year.

Here’s what makes creating a great smart TV difficult. It’s hard to make the experience personal and dynamic, because the TV is so detached from our realm of interaction. Even with a remote, interacting with the TV is a complicated experience compared to others, because you can’t manipulate it using the controller and see what’s happening at the same time. This is why there’s been a push to use smartphones as controllers.

So, what can be done? First, we need a controller with a nice touch screen, and buttons. Buttons allow the user to see the TV while changing the content because with buttons you can just feel around without looking down. The touch screen would allow for more complicated options, and the ability to see content while looking away from the screen.

My next idea, which is the better idea as far as controlling, is to remove the remote from the equation, using hand and arm motions along with voice recognition for control. This would make for the smoothest experience. Using the technology from Siri, Apple could definitely make this happen.

Finally, because smart TV’s will undoubtedly be expensive it is imperative that they have high quality design to attract their customer base. This means having a thin exterior, 4K resolution, and advanced programming that can change brightness and contrast of localized areas of the screen, according to shadows and light in a certain room.

The good thing about this is that all these ingredients already exist. Now, all we need is for a company to come along and compile them together smoothly, creating an experience our smart TV viewers can enjoy.

Invisible, Weightless Money

ght-weightless-money

The exchange of money has developed in numerous ways over human history. At one point, people traded clay tablets which signified an amount of crops to be paid at the end of the season. Eventually, coins became popular. Then came paper currency and in the past fifty years credit cards. The general trend has been to make transactions as simple and weightless as possible. Recently, the race has begun to make money completely weightless, using today’s and tomorrow’s technology to make it happen.

One method being implemented is payment using smartphones or portable chips on rings or cards with Near Field Communication (NFC). This allows people to tap smartphones against a terminal through a contactless transaction to make a payment. The good news: most new phones (not iPhones) already have NFC technology. To take advantage of NFC payments, a person just has to set up a virtual wallet with a service like Google Wallet. iPhone users that can’t use NFC because they don’t have the hardware necessary in their phone can use other options like the Square Wallet app that doesn’t require a physical tap. The idea is that in today’s world a wallet won’t be necessary anymore, because most people already walk around with smartphones which can just as easily serve as wallets.

Another recent development is the use of virtual money like Bitcoins. Bitcoins is a currency that exists solely in digital format, and can exist on anything that can hold digital memory. This could take a long time to be used commonly by people because at the moment Bitcoin transactions are too complicated for most to understand. They will probably never be used widely beyond investments or transactions for illegal goods, because like cash, Bitcoins cannot be traced. Unlike cash, they have the potential to be transferred online across the globe. Also, because Bitcoins aren’t controlled by any central bank, the value of a Bitcoin fluctuates in large amounts which might turn consumers away. As I write this post, the value of a Bitcoin is at 350 USD, but it could drop back down to 250 tomorrow.

There are a few hurdles that must be crossed before the use of these new technologies becomes widely accepted. First, one of the major concerns with being dependent on virtual currency is security. Anything that is digital and connected can be hacked. If there is anything that people like to keep more secure than anything else, for good reason, it’s money. Additionally, using these new technologies has to be introduced into the common consumer’s habits, which may be difficult considering how attached many are to their credit cards. Old habits die hard. However, I have faith that in the next ten years many of those currently using credit cards will be using alternative forms of payment. But, If the credit card users don’t convert, the new generation of consumers will probably swoop in to pick up the invisible payment market. People questioned the introduction of the credit card half a century ago. Plastic to invisible shouldn’t be too big of a leap now.

One design fits all? Apple thinks so.

ght-AppleLogo

One of the largest and most apparent differences between Microsoft and Apple, is the much larger variety of devices and designs available through Microsofts’ operating systems. Honestly, looking at the huge selection of phones, computers, and tablets running on Windows compared to Macintosh and iOS makes Apple look mundane and boring. For crying out loud, there are only two color options for the iPhone! Black and white. So why does Apple have such few options? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Quality over quantity: It would be difficult to argue against the quality of an Apple product. One reason why they are able to maintain this, is because the company as a whole is able to be focused on a single image and excel at it.
  2. Easy decision makes for a happier customer: When the customer isn’t choosing from a large selection, choosing becomes easier. This makes for happy Apple users. Later, after purchasing an item, the customer remains satisfied with their purchase. It’s not like they could have made a bad decision, there’s not much to choose from.
  3. Easy for developers: Consistency between products makes it easy for developers like myself to make apps for Apple. Although Apple has a strict set of guidelines to follow when publishing an application, I know that one good quality app will look great on all iOS devices. When making apps for other platforms, developers always have to worry about whether their apps will work with all the inconsistencies that exist between devices, like screen sizes.

Apple caters to a large variety of people: IT geniuses, computer newbies, artists, musicians, students etc. To be able to do this, a company has to do one of two things. Either create unique products for each demographic, or create one product that is designed for everyone. Apple chooses the latter. Sure, there are differences between the computers, but the experience remains the same and that is what they deliver.

The Heated Smartphone Race for Third Place

thirdquestionIn the smartphone market, not everybody is fighting for first place. In fact, not even second. Currently, Samsung and Apple lead the mobile market in first and second, respectively. This makes third the only place left to fight for this heated Smartphone race.

Who’s in the race? This is a long list, since no company has made a clear step ahead of anyone else. Here’s the list of who I think can be innovative enough to take third place :

  • Blackberry: With their newest phone, the Z10, they have a brand new chance to grab the corporate market again, which has been leaving their grip over the last couple of years. They have also made their device more consumer friendly, a big issue previously. This rebirth of Blackberry gives them a good chance at third.
  • Nokia: Nokia has been fighting hard to make Windows Phones big. They are hoping their commitment to Microsofts platform will make them unique, and stand out in the crowd. Maybe, Windows Phone is the key to third.
  • HTC: With a few great new Android smartphones, they have a lot of potential to take their piece of the market. Phones such as the Droid DNA and the upcoming HTC One are extremely catchy to the eye, and will make a big impact.
  • Huawei: The current third, although barely, is making a name for itself. Out of China, it is unknown to many. Its’ fresh phone designs, and global presence, are promising.

Although there are other companies, such as Sony, ZTE, Lenovo, and LG that have similar sales, they aren’t being as innovative or as unique as the companies in the list above. Truly, however, anyone can get third. Whoever does end up claiming third place, I hope they take a stab at Samsung and Apple, putting the industry into a frenzy of innovation.