The TV that… feels you!

Elderly person using a smart TV

Elderly person using a smart TV

Why should people get sleepy while watching TV? Why shouldn’t a user friendly TV read our eye lids and take the courageous decision to either close or change program? Why shouldn’t the user friendly TV take the liberty to freeze the running of a movie to let us go to the toilet or alert us to go to the toilet in case we need to but are unable to see the risk? Why shouldn’t our user friendly TV adapt viewing settings so that we don’t need our glasses – a self-calibration of the presented images would allow the user to watch his or her favourite program without changing the settings.

So, the TV is a device that enables access to content but may also have decision-making capabilities. Access to content does not take place the way we have been used to: a child is not enabled to follow an adult film, same way as a manic depressive person is not allowed to have access to certain broadcasts, while a deaf person is given the necessary support through captioning and / or subtitling so that he / she may follow the program.

Smart TVs shall not keep content only for themselves: quite the contrary, they will be able to send content to other devices if needed, so that a busy person will not miss a live concert and still have access through their mobile phone. Even more they will be able to synchronize and cooperate with other devices. A blind person could use his mobile phone to listen to audio descriptions while watching a movie with his friends and being able to control them independently from the movie itself.

Furthermore, and in contrast to smart phones that have the capability to act as TV devices, an affective TV is capable to support groups of individuals that express their wish to watch a program: after identifying the individuals (a step not necessary – however, in that case of registering as guest and not as a registered user, nobody should blame the TV for broadcasting in English without captioning to a blind Croatian person who refused to identify himself!), the affective TV takes the optimal decision to satisfy collectively the interaction needs and capabilities of the particular group.

In addition to recognizing the person, the affective TV can also recognize his/her state and needs and provide him/ her with appropriate content. For example an old lady who is tired from a day’s activities and just wants to relax may have as a suggestion to watch an entertainment program, while on the other hand a blind young man who is about to prepare a meal for his girlfriend might get as a suggestion a program with recipe instructions properly subtitled and described through audio descriptions for him.

People (usually children and elderly) talk to the TV – either to the TV as a device hypothetically capable to listen to them, or to the program that is broadcasted. As with many other non-living objects, people feel comfortable to assign qualities and properties that are currently non-existing. This may facilitate the process of assigning more and more information processing and decision-taking capabilities to the TV, thus helping the latter become smarter, more intelligent and affective.

How much control will a person have on his/her TV suggestions? How easy would it be to deviate from TV suggestions and how TV should respond to that kind of behaviour? What if the person decides to follow programs that are not accessible for him/her? Questions like the previous ones may lead research on affective computing on new grounds getting into a deeper level from understating the emotional state of a person. Research in the future should look into these issues too if we want to reach a level of devices that can really “feel” their users.

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