Guest post by Navin Natoewal, General Manager, Philips uWand.
Google’s announcement on Wednesday at I/O of Android TV has been welcomed by the company’s fans around the world but could this be another major smart TV development that just missed the mark?
The Android ecosystem is dominated by gesture controlled applications and the reason is obvious. Gesture control, on PCs, tablets or smartphones provides the user with much greater flexibility and control of their experience. You simply couldn’t operate those applications with the traditional up/down/left/right (UDLR) interface we see on the billions of TVs around the world. So where has Google gone wrong with Android TV? You guessed it, the Android TV Software Development Kit (SDK) dictates that all applications must conform to the decades old UDLR user interface model. There is no capacity to incorporate the fine gesture control that makes a modern smartphone, tablet or PC a pleasure to use. Effectively, Google is asking its application development partners to completely rethink their applications and make them work within an unnecessarily constrained user interface model.
Even with traditional multi-channel television services consumers struggle to navigate increasingly complex user interfaces with their UDLR remotes and as for voice control, something that is incorporated within Android TV, its application is limited and adoption of similar technologies to date has been very slow among average users. That all means that Android TV is unlikely to be much different from the Smart TV we see today; much the same content from much the same suppliers but it will just be Google providing you with access. TV manufacturers, for many years fixated on flat screen, 3D and HD technologies, are now recognising that UDLR remote interfaces are holding the industry back and are starting to adopt some form of gesture and pointing control. The normally conservative cable and satellite industries will eventually follow suit but despite being the new entrants with a heritage built on innovation, companies like Amazon and Google seem to have ignored the issue.
It could have been so much better if the option of gesture control was incorporated within Android TV and allowance made for more sophisticated lean-back remote controls. There would have been an immediate incentive for developers to deploy existing applications with little modification and all of a sudden Android TV could have been transformative. As it is, it looks like a shaky step into an uncertain future.