An enthusiastic group of six Information Science Masters students at the VU University Amsterdam are now half-way through their assignment looking at the usability aspects of augmenting TV with second screen experiences for the NoTube project. They have been concentrating on group interactions in an imagined future where most people will own a personal, portable, connected device such as a tablet or smartphone. This focus on ‘group watching’ complements work we are currently exploring in NoTube as part of the TV and the Social Web showcase on collaborative exploration of large on-demand video collections using multiple second screens.
The students have been using the cartoon-style storyboarding technique to sketch out a range of potential scenarios for social viewing, whereby each individual can adapt their second screen experience depending on their needs (such as age, accessibility requirements, level of knowledge) and the situation. Situational factors include the type of programme (e.g.: quiz show versus news programme), whether the setting is public or at home, and whether the other people in the group are physically present or remote.
For example, one scenario imagines a family watching a film together. Censored content deemed inappropriate for the 10 year-old child is filtered out on the main screen – the shared TV – but the adults can choose to watch it on their personal second screens. Additionally, since the parents would like their child to learn English, they remove the subtitles from the main screen, but the adults could choose to view the subtitles on their own screen, or listen to a dubbed version of the film. Further, the child can use her second screen to help her learn unfamiliar words as they crop up during the film. I think this scenario gives a flavour of the ways in which the second screen experience could be adapted for the benefit of each individual in the group, whilst the social aspects of watching the TV collectively are maintained.
The students also ran a survey to gather feedback about levels of interest in these types of potential second screen activities. 86 people from across a range of countries including The Netherlands, Russia, Italy and Greece responded to the questionnaire. Initial analysis of the results shows that respondents were particularly positive about the idea of ‘screen grab and send’ functionality; the notion of annotating and sharing clips with friends, which we have touched on before in a previous NoTube blog post.
The next phase of the project will involve extrapolating a set of generalised usability guidelines and principles for TV second screen experiences based on the types of features and functionalities identified within the various scenarios, together with the results of the survey. In generating these guidelines the students will consider various potential obstacles to good usability, such as dealing with competition for attention between the various screens, avoiding information overload, and how to make clear the relationships between what’s happening on the different screens. These guidelines should be complete by the end of May.
With thanks and acknowledgements to the Masters students at the VU University Amsterdam: Andreas Manios, Andys Sundaypink, Dmitry Litosh, Francesco Castri, Iwan Cheng, and Nam Nguyen.