When you think about how people were entertained in their homes in the past, they would usually crowd around a radio or TV – which would be located at some central point in the home. Recently this has changed – with powerful, smaller, connected devices we’re able to fragment this experience. You have a home where everyone is on a different shared device, being more selective about the content they’re consuming – video, websites, games – all up to the individual, but still connected to their circles of family and friends.
And what makes this possible? These new personal devices: phones, tablets, and other mobile devices create these content channels that make it easy to instantly have access to 1,000s of videos, books, games, and more.
And it’s interesting how our homes haven’t really shifted to match this new wave of experiences. Living rooms are still laid out to support a central TV. Power plugs still line the walls, and rarely make it to a convenient place near a sitting area.
Even with our homes not being properly designed for these devices, my kids take to the household mobile devices, and more often than they do our TV, XBOX, or other “couch experiences”.
I believe how our children interact today, with today’s devices will shape and inform the future. If they’re used to this today – they’re going to expect it tomorrow. These “digital natives” will change how we Design the future:
“…those who grew up with mobile tech are restless and emotionally detached consumers, switching between TVs, magazines, tablets, smartphones, or channels within platforms about 27 times an hour…”
“…these adept media navigators take their devices from room to room with them 65 percent of the time, that 54 percent of them prefer texting to talking, and that they subconsciously switch between platforms and can ”pick up different pieces of a story from different mediums in any order.""
This got me thinking about how our family has shifted, and how we rarely all sit in front of the TV anymore. We’ve moved to a series of distributed devices – picking up one or another depending on the task. Want to read a book? Go grab the Kindle. My two year old wants to watch a cartoon? Grab the nearest Netflix device (I have no less than 10 devices with Netflix, they’re doing something right…).
My seven year old wants to call Grandpa? Grab the iPod Touch and FaceTime him. He wants to play Mario? Go grab the 3DS. My wife needs to work? She grabs her Macbook Air. And so on…
And some of these work almost like channels of yesteryear. Want to play Mario? Grab the 3DS. Want to watch an Amazon streaming show? You need to get the Kindle. Some devices are more open to all types of content, but this content is creating reasons to own specific devices in cases where they want to own (and/or monetize) the entire ecosystem.
How should a modern living area look when this is the reality we live in? Instead of sofas surrounding a large TV, maybe they should be facing each other – and a set of docking stations built into the end tables? I currently have issues around finding places close enough to a power outlet – where’s our wireless power!!! – to dock my devices.
I collected the few things I could find around combining mobile devices (mostly iPads) into living areas and posted them to a pinboard – here are some of the more interesting ones:
And while I’m leaving out the TV, with the addition of something like an Apple TV, you’re able to “flick” over your content to a TV from an iPad or iPhone with one tap. Just like a Microsoft “Future” video. So maybe the TV becomes the shared whiteboard? Something to show shared experiences when friends are around?
So, what are some new Design principles you could apply after seeing how this generation interacts with devices?
- Make sure devices can be shared without overwriting other users preferences.
- Make sure the task can be launched in minimal time.
- Make sure state can be saved quickly.
- Allow multiple instances or an app or a video in the same house.
- Create a system to dock/store/charge your device.
- Allow devices and apps to talk to each other.
- Allow experience to shift between devices.
I suspect we’ll see more and more of this moving forward – because if the kids are doing it today, then we can be sure they’ll expected it out of the experiences we Design tomorrow.
How are you transforming your living areas/routines around these new devices?