Will The Future of Search Be Televised?

Would you believe the next Google-killer is coming from Samsung?

Samsung doesn't refer to its See'N'Search set-top box as a Google killer; that's generally a phrase used by the media to describe some technology you'll never hear from again. What Samsung is doing actually doesn't interfere with Google's current business model in the slightest, though it could spell competition going forward.

Here's how the blog Mashable describes Samsung's program:

"The new See'N'Search is a set-top box that reads the closed captions on a television show, as well as listens for keywords, to search for related Internet articles to the content you are currently watching. Say you're watching the news and they do a story about the President; links to information on the President will appear at the bottom of the screen. For programs such as scripted shows, the system will pull up information on the actors as well as whatever they are discussing in the show. Furthermore, while it may be annoying to have information covering the bottom portion of your screen, you can instead choose to have any requested info show up on handheld devices or a computer connected to the local network."



The write-up links to Engadget, which posted a six-minute video demo from a Samsung exec. It's a good preview of where interactive TV is heading. It's also an illustration of how much of the future of search has nothing to do with searching. It's a future built on keywords without queries. It's a form of user-modified discovery where the device presents the possible options, updated in real time, and the user drills down to access the content, such as an article or an online video, which then appears on the TV screen (or another device).

As with any new technology, the biggest questions revolve around how people will actually use it. Multitasking is nothing new, so will people embrace the See'N'Search's guided prompts when they can generally just as easily conduct a self-directed search online while watching TV? What types of TV programs will the See'N'Search best complement? Are there certain types of consumers who'd find it especially useful? Will it be a sought after add-on for television at all, given how TV is generally a lean-back experience and the Web is generally lean-forward?

I've found myself conducting a lot of searches lately related to TV programming. Throughout primary season, I've kept the TV tuned to news channels while trying to validate the reports on different news sites. During the Super Bowl, I watched the game in high definition while visiting sites like Tide's (I even later made my own version of the commercial). This past Sunday night, watching the premiere of "Knight Rider" on NBC, I checked the Internet Movie Database to see if one of the police officers shared the name of eMarketer CEO Geoff Ramsey (in turns out it was Sheriff Ramsey, who it turns out is nowhere near as nice a guy as Geoff).

Would the Sight'n'See have made it easier to find some of this content? It might have saved me the trouble of searching for Ramsey's full name, but generally it would have offered extra information that wasn't what I really needed. Yet maybe I'm going about this entirely the wrong way. See'N'Search is about discovery. A much more appropriate analogy is when I was sick over the weekend and searched for cold and flu symptoms, which led me to WebMD, where I clicked some of the most viewed articles on the site, including one on the germiest places in America  (no, the Ad:Tech exhibit hall isn't one of them) and another on eight things no one tells you about marriage (thanks to this article, I know I don't have to get my way all the time). I would never have sought out these articles, especially since they're originally from Redbook, but they made for passable infotainment.

That's why the See'N'Search is a misnomer. It's more like Watch'N'Discover, a way to present content that you're happy to have but wouldn't have searched for. In that way, it doesn't even preempt your searching so much as it deepens your engagement. That's precisely why media companies, cable operators, and advertisers will want to discover more ways this technology can be used.

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