TVs aren’t living up to their potential. We give them a place of honor in our homes, purchase stands for them, mount them on walls and even orient our furniture to make them the center of focus. They have become big beautiful screens that capture our attention and our time, and as such should be used for much more than just binge watching old reruns of Star Trek.
For something that is so prominent and highly valued as televisions are in our lives, it’s disappointing that we tend to connect such limited computers to them. Right now television’s primary function is to collect media and spit it back at you. They can and should be doing so much more.
While we do have high-end videogame consoles, they've become overly focused on how realistic explosions can look. We are currently at an inflection point where technology will allow us to make TV the dynamic screen it deserves to be as the focal point in our homes.
Thinking like Apple TV Developers
Prior to the Apple Event earlier this month, we brainstormed what we as developers hoped the future of the Television could bring. We leveraged our experience designing and developing mobile applications and anticipated what could be possible on a big screen controlled by an iOS-like device. While the demonstrations Apple showed seemed a bit lackluster to us we are hopeful that with an open development platform developers will be able to pick up the slack.
With that said, here are 10 ideas for creating Apple TV apps. We really just want to see some of them exist, so if you’re thinking of being an apple tv developer, please go ahead and build them! If you run product development or R&D at a company and feel inspired to build something great, let’s have a chat.
1. The Command Center
There's something extremely attractive about being able to just kick back in a comfy chair and crank out some work that has long been a hopeful dream for geeks (if you’ve ever seen the movie Grandma’s Boy, think JPs office). A quick poll of our office shows pretty much every person has at one point tried to connect their computer into their TV and do some work. Unfortunately the experience is never great; the problem is that no productivity apps are designed to work in this fashion. If text editors, spreadsheet tools, writing tools etc. were specifically designed for this use case it would make a lot of our nerdy dreams come true.
Other possibilities include a streaming dashboard with stocks, social media feeds, real time analytics or dripping code from the matrix.
2. Rethinking Board Games
Board games that are adapted to video games are usually horrible. The controls suck and the idea of holding cards or something secret is completely destroyed when the whole group is all looking at one giant screen together.
If you were able to easily connect your phone via Bluetooth or in-home network to an Apple TV, the possibilities for interactive games explodes. Any game where players hold cards, or write something secret down becomes an exciting possibility. Immediately coming to mind for us were: Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity, Settlers of Catan, Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Uno, Poker, Blackjack, Crazy Eights, Charades, Scrabble and countless others.
This dynamic allows for whole new types of casual gameplay, marking an important evolution for the TV in going from an isolating, consumption-based platform to becoming one that facilitates engagement with friends and family.
3. Interactive TV
The MLB app demoed at Apple’s event hinted at the potential of this idea, but we believe it could be taken much further. Sports are one of the best examples because of how dynamic they are. Wouldn’t it be awesome to watch a Formula1 race with the ability to switch between cameras on the driver’s cars and above the track? Or be able to pause, rewind and switch camera angles on a crucial questionable play during an NFL post season game? Isn’t it time your TV knows if that guy is on your fantasy football team too?
For decades, marketers and advertisers have foamed at the mouth for the ability for viewers to "click to buy" items from TV shows; that’s now one very big step closer. We also found that when watching TV, many of us pick up our devices to load up IMDB or Wikipedia info to find out exactly what other movie that familiar-looking actor starred in. Truly interactive TV will make this seamless and possible very soon.
- Highly interactive maps
- Choose your own adventure video
- Providing elderly and bedridden an outlet to see and interact with the world
- Comparing Netflix queues and suggesting something from both
- Periscope/meerkat like apps have huge potential
With Bluetooth integration your TV could greet you when you come home. It could even act like your own personal Jarvis system (thanks for the idea Iron Man). We imagine a world where you walk into your kitchen with your phone, the Apple TV sees it, picks up on the beacon signal and pops open a schedule of your day, the weather, and starts playing your favorite morning playlist.
When you get home at night, your TV will again read your schedule, know the type of day you’ve had, and perhaps recommend some streaming content. All of this could be personalized, and your spouse or roommate might get an entirely different daily summary when they arrive.
5. Smart Home Dashboard
Since televisions are center-points in the home, they could serve important home and family management roles. Playing ambient music with great visualizers are a no-brainer, most people already have great sound systems hooked up to their TVs. Apple Music, Spotify, Songza, Google Play, Pandora - station integrations galore!
Logistical tasks can be facilitated. If you've ever tried to manage a takeout order online or over an app then you know the painful process could easily be remedied by having everyone just plug into the TV. When the order arrives, the screen could pause immediately.
Some other quick ideas include, making the TV the family dashboard for health activities with wearable tech integrations, group challenges, and scores. The TV could also produce charts of a chore schedule, or in a large household could even tell you who might currently be at home. Who was supposed to take out the trash this week? Ask your TV.
Currently, sharing silly videos with your friend beside you results in a lot of passing a laptop or phone back and forth. This has quickly become an important pastime. This frustration can be eliminated entirely by integrating the Apple TV with smartphones, allowing it to serve as a new-age jukebox where multiple people can contribute and queue up songs and videos.
7. The Office
We see smart TVs as being huge for day-to-day office life and potentially going so far as to replace receptionist services. We think it's inevitable that one day in the near future you will walk up to a big screen, tell it who you are (or check in via Bluetooth) and then automatically get directions to your meeting or conference room.
We saw a big opportunity around leveraging the Bluetooth capabilities to detect who is sitting around a conference table. This could auto-populate a meeting, and instead of spending valuable time on introductions, could be projected for everyone to see.
We've found there is a huge unmet need when trying present information to a team. Instead of dealing with crossed wires and AirPlay it would be nice to have team accounts and versions of popular programs installed on the Apple TV, able to be presented and worked on in an environment that is specifically designed for large displays. We often find ourselves in situations where current screen-share solutions fall short.
“Solve this set of math problems before you're allowed to watch more TV.” This rule could now be strictly enforced by the TV itself instead of a busy parent. This only scratches the surface of what can happen with education and interactive TV.
An Apple TV doesn’t necessarily need to just be wired to a TV at home, it could be wired into the projector of a classroom with ease. This opens the door to huge possibilities. Students can scribble on their iPads and then the teacher can project the solution to the class. No more going up to the chalkboard to rewrite your math problem.
Step-by-step instruction for anything that can’t be simply typed or pointed to becomes a possibility with a concept we called “scribble share”, where a presenter shares in real time something they are working on. Astrology, physics, biology, math - many of these subjects would be easier if the actions were written out on an iPad while being projected to the class in real time. The live-coaching and teaching aspects are extremely exciting to us.
A bigger screen equals a bigger store front. Having a shelf or large environment to explore opens the doors for commerce via TV. All of a sudden QVC will start showing you things you actually want to buy. The products marketed to you will will be contextually relevant, maybe even relating to the type of TV you are watching.
The actual buying experience will be different too. You’ll be able to see a high-resolution, life-size version of your product, spin it around, and with the right technologies perhaps even have a virtual avatar try on an outfit so that you can get an idea of how it looks on “you” before you buy it.
10. Navigation & Interaction
We are excited by the possibility of integrating all of our screens with the Apple TV. It can transform TVs from being consumption-based to interaction-based devices. Our dream is to be able to fling pieces of work from phones to tables, watches and TVs. Websites will need to adapt, optimizing things like images and fonts for much larger screen sizes.
Hooking up a Microsoft Kinect or Leap Motion will be a game changer. We’re only starting to scratch the surface in creating a Minority Report-esque world in which we can navigate and swipe through screens in mid-air. Of course we don’t know too much about upcoming accessories for the Apple TV just yet, but we can hope that Apple will play nicely with these devices.
While some of these ideas may already exist in some preliminary form and others might not yet be practical or even possible, we still like to keep our heads in the clouds before digging into technical analysis. We’ll be creating a follow-up post in the near future regarding our technical analysis of the platform, so stay tuned!
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Tony Scherba is a CEO + Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.