The word is a combination of tele—from the Greek meaning "far"—and vision, from the Latin word visionem, which means "the act of seeing." Call it remote viewing, if you're a sci-fi type, but "television" has until very recently meant one thing only: It's a one-way window into another world. That's very swiftly about to change.
GetGlue, which styles itself as a "growing social network for entertainment, where you check-in and share shows, movies, music with your friends" has just revealed a new iPad app. The app, so the company says "features a reimagined guide for shows, movies, and sports" and comes with new bonus powers to "bring you the best related content about your favorite shows to the second screen." Really, though, it's tapping into the future of TV.
For now, the future is being displayed on your tablet alone, via app's like GetGlue's new one: It's designed to be smart and prioritize shows you already prefer. It also pops new episode info above re-runs, and it adds in a nice dose of real-time social media because it shows you what your friends are watching right now and allows you to chat with them. It even applies a bit of algorithmic thinking to the shows you like to watch, and recommends new shows that line up with your tastes. Sports fans get stats and live scores in the app, to fill up their noodles with info perhaps when the play is slow, record-breaking or controversial, and movie goers get weekend guides to new movies they may like to see in the theater. It even hooks up to streams from providers like iTunes, Netflix and Amazon.
It's a very bold play to occupy the "second screen," which we're all using at the same time that we're watching TV. GetGlue is hoping, in effect, that instead of idly wandering around the web, consulting wikipedia or tapping away at Twitter on your iPad while you're watching TV that you'll use its app instead—to provide you with info on shows, suggest new ones and hook you up with pals.
Which basically means TV is now boring us. It's ability to let us "remote view" simply isn't enough. We want to "interactively view/chat/influence/learn from/get recommendations from" and so on, and we're using our tablets and smartphones to do so.
GetGlue would like us to consider using its app to fill the capability gap, but it's not alone. Efforts like Shazam's audio-recognizing interactive ads, recently used in the UK are similar. While TV ads are playing, Shazam's app listens for the distinctive audio fingerprint of an ad from one of its partners, and then delivers new information like competitions, data or freebies like downloads. It's nothing like GetGlue, but it's a similar way of using the second screen.
Now look at Apple's efforts to patent novel TV interfaces, and partner with cable content providers for material to broadcast onto its TV or set-top box. It's already investigated a bunch of technologies in this area, and you can bet your bottom dollar any future "Apple television" isn't going to be a simple, dumb box—it'll leverage iCloud and other Apple assets like Siri and Genius to provide interactivity, feedback, data and recommendations, in a similar way to Get Glue is trying right now.
Then imagine what a hybrid of Apple's tech and efforts like GetGlue, Shazam, and other interactive systems will be like when they're more integrated into your 2017 smart TV. The big screen in your living room won't be a one-way window into another world you can't touch anymore. It'll be a discovery engine, a way to learn facts, interact with the world, talk to people, find new and surprising content to absorb. Advertisers will love it, and companies like Nielsen—which largely has to guess all those stats about who watches which show at primetime nowadays—will be able to get accurate data...which may mean more appealing shows.
Or at least, that's what we hope.
[Image: Flickr user Grant Jones]