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TAP THE TV — Online TV concept for multitouch tablets

Television is changing. Internet is increasingly used for distributing TV content. People can watch TV stations live over the internet, and they can view vast amounts of video clips on the web sites of TV channels and, of course, on all the social media sites. Television is becoming interactive.

The future of TV

Television is changing. Internet is increasingly used for distributing TV content. People can watch TV stations live over the internet, and they can view vast amounts of video clips on the web sites of TV channels and, of course, on all the social media sites. Television is becoming interactive.

Still, people watch the good old TV – nowadays often on wide screen home theatres – as much or more as they did earlier. There’s still something very compelling to just sit back, relax, and enjoy high quality programs together with family and friends.

Lately, we have seen launches of new tablet computers, the iPad by Apple being the most prominent. The evolution of laptop computers have been taking computers to this direction for some time now: lighter, thinner, better batteries, touch input, fluent connectivity, etc.

We at Nordkapp and at SuomiTV have identified these two trends, and we wanted to explore what this convergence will mean for the business of a broadcast television channel.

If you haven’t yet seen our concept video yet, you can see it on Vimeo.

From insight to implementation

We approached this by utilizing Nordkapp’s design process, which takes its main inspiration from the people – consumers or potential users of the projected solution. The process starts with the Insight phase, where we analyze users, trends, business, and technology. Then we move on to Synthesis phase to create the concept, and lastly to the Implementation phase, where the concept is refined, specified and taken through to the final carefully detailed, fully working solution.

process chart: insight, synthesis, implementation

Do people need tablets?

Computers in a form of a tablet haven’t been yet widely available yet – at least for larger consumer groups. People haven’t yet formed habits of how, where and for what tablet computers would be used. Therefore, we first wanted to do small user research studies, in order to find opportunities how tablets would naturally fit people’s everyday lives.

We visited people in their homes and observed and interviewed them about their use of TV, laptops and other media. It is always so refreshing, eye-opening and insightful to meet and talk with people and discuss their habits, usage patterns, expectations, fears, and attitudes towards technology.

Disappearing computer

One of the primary patterns we identified was that laptops were fluently used around the house. In particular, people had the habit of bringing the laptops to living rooms and using them while watching TV. Seeing this pattern repeatedly gave us the insight that laptops are currently used to fulfill the needs for internet, interactive content, and social use (Facebook etc) also while being together. People found this much more social than staying in different rooms at their computers.

user with ipad on the lap

As laptops are still somewhat cumbersome to move around, we found that this is a perfect opportunity for the tablet computer: to complement the relaxed TV-watching, typically in the living room. Tablets are less intrusive than laptops: they don’t have the display that protrudes between people. The relaxed use with swipes and gestures with the tablet casually on the lap is perfect for living room use. The computer disappears.

Complementing the TV

A straightforward design of a TV application to a tablet computer would probably contain a large window to display the TV stream. But how silly that would be! If you are sitting down in your living room, in front of the large-screen TV, why would you watch the same on the tablet? After the first interviews we soon understood that our application on a tablet must not just copy the TV. Instead, it must complement it.

User with laptop in front of TV

The tablets are optimal devices for providing complementing information to the live TV programs. You can have an additional screen for the program guide, further information about the programs, links to IMDB database or Wikipedia for detailed information about movies, and more information available about the advertisements that you simultaneously see on the TV. If you would browse through any of this on the same large screen on your living room wall, this would drive your family and friends mad. Intensive interaction is best to be done alone.

With our design we support people being social while they are together. But of course, nowadays “social” has another meaning too. With tablets, it will be possible to be social over the distance and discuss, share, rate, poke, throw a sheep, and whatnot with your friends. As a complement to the TV, the tablet is the natural UI for social media while enjoying TV.

Naturally, you will have moments when you’re not in front of your home theatre and yet want to watch a program on the TV. This requires that the tablet has a second mode that provides a lean-back user interface with no or little interruptions, preferably in landscape orientation.

And radio, too?

We found also other fascinating ideas for tablets. When they are easy to carry around the house, they will be brought to places like bedside tables or to the bathroom, where they are used for entertainment and news, for example while applying make-up or taking a shower. In these use cases, tablets will assume the role of the radio: perfect for background information and entertainment.

Design drivers

We concluded the insights phase with workshops, where we defined the design drivers for our concept. Design drivers describe the design intent in a short, crystallized sentences that are easy for the designers to keep in mind.

people in a workshop

Our design drivers were:

Cherish touch
Tablets have touch UI, so it should be used to its full potential. It’s always good to interact directly with the content rather than with artificial controls and levers.

Complement large-screen TV
Don’t just do what the TV does, but complement with additional interaction, features, social use, etc.

Respect full screen viewing
When user is enjoying the full screen TV, provide a laid back UI. Use subtle notifications and avoid interruptions.

High quality and relevant content
SuomiTV ensures that the TV content is of high quality. Filter it further according to recommendations by friends to make it more relevant.

Good for people, good for advertiser
The tablet enables new advertising models, especially when used together with the live TV. At best, ads provide real value to the user.

Next up: Designing the concept – read more in Nordkapp blog.

The concept is a result of compact three weeks of intensive work. We produced quite a bit of ideas and material of which about 25% made it to the final concept. Naturally our intention is to share as much as we can, so look out for more posts delving into related material.

Remember to check out the other parts as well;


  1. Thanks Panu. Nice to have this research in the public domain. One thing that has surprised me is how heavy the iPad is. On the other hand it doesn’t get hot, unlike many laptops. These ergonomic details may sound trivial but can have a real impact on use. I’m not sure, too, whether I risk it as a bathroom radio. Still squeamish about water and technology and like to have my trusty old transistor, that can be switched on and off with a usefully clunky, manual switch.

  2. 19.08.2010 at 16:48
    Pingback: Tap The TV – Tablet Concept » Adam Jones
  3. check this out! onesitetv.com

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