Five Things We Can't Wait to See

Remotes will always suck

Despite the fact that both voice- and gesture-controlled TV sets were on display at this year’s CES, our relationship with remote control of our screens just isn’t going to change. When you can change the channel with a wag of your finger, what happens when your dog walks by and wags its tail? Thought control (see “Five Things We Can’t Wait to See” sidebar) could change that, but don’t count on it. While the days of digging in the couch cushions for the remote will soon be behind us, look for a whole new range of problems to arise as we shift to new control schemes and new devices (or virtual ones).

There will always be couch potatoes

Despite bad remotes.

Bigger will always be better

Though we’re seeing the proliferation of smaller and smaller screens — and will soon be seeing screens that have no physical presence at all — we will continue to see the development of display technology that can present bigger and bigger images as well. The largest screen in the world is currently the 16,000-square-foot Panasonic screen at the Charlotte Motor Speedway — but at 200 feet by 80 feet, that leaves plenty of room for expansion. As projection and display technologies improve, expect to see screens that cover the sides of buildings — or areas much larger than that. Why waste a transcontinental flight staring at the scenery, after all, when you could be seeing mile-wide advertisements on the ground below?

We will always argue about what to watch

No technology in the world will change the dynamics of social behavior that arise when two or more people sit down together to pick a program. Even shows that capture the broadest of audiences can’t entertain everyone all of the time. And as audiences become more and more fragmented (see No. 5, below), producers and broadcasters will have to spend more and more of their resources competing to capture eyeballs in the first place. From that perspective, arguing over entertainment alternatives is a good thing: It represents an opportunity to convince someone who hasn’t yet made their choice. And social TV (see article, page 46) will complicate the scene yet further, extending the debate to encompass people who aren’t in the room.

There will never be anything on

A corollary to No. 4 is the current paradox of cable television, which mirrors a phenomenon known as the Paradox of Choice: Past a certain point, presenting someone with more and more alternatives makes all of them seem less and less attractive. As programming becomes more and more specialized, fragmenting itself into verticals that address exceedingly specific niches, it will become easier to find just the kind of thing you had in mind — but if you just want something entertaining, it will be nearly impossible without first narrowing your choices. When there are 237 channels showing different flavors of action movies, choosing between them becomes nearly impossible. Again, social TV will help with this, but without new strategies expect things to get worse before they get better. ­M.W

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