Technology Shapes Space
Jan 14 2009, 12:43PM
We got a Neuros Link last week. It's basically an Ubuntu box with HDMI out and a handy wireless keyboard. I want to say a few things about how it has changed the space in front of the TV, and then I have some comments about the Neuros Link itself.
The most obvious change is that watching TV is not as passive as it used to be. Instead of the TV constantly yelling at us, it waits for us to initiate the interaction based on our interests. It feels natural because we've been doing that on desktop computers for a while now. That's essentially what I wanted out of the purchase.
What I didn't expect was the way it highlights the fact that technology shapes interactions in it's vicinity. The distance between me, Sheau (my wife), and the screen are all different now. The positions of our bodies and the gestures we make are different as well.
Watching TV on the desktop before was always a somewhat awkward experience - we had to position chairs, or accept an odd viewing angle. It felt as if it was imposing something on the space. It intruded upon the one-person-one-computer hunched-over-keyboard nose-3ft-from-screen position we know and love.
Now we sit back on the couch more comfortably. There's less conflict between interacting with the computer (searching for something online) and interacting with those around us. Only the keyboard is left floating around the coffee table - a strangely detached left-over from the desktop interaction model.
I'm enjoying it, and will be interested to see how the experience changes over time, or affects my sense of HCI overall.
I knew the Link was basically an Ubuntu box when I bought it. The only other option i was excited about was building my own Ubuntu box for the same purpose. The Neuros Link just meant I didn't have to figure out which components to buy. To that extent, I'm very happy with the purchase.
I wasn't clear on what Neuros.TV was, however. It turned out to be a web app. An online video aggregator that runs in a fullscreen Firefox window when you start the Link up. I tried looking up a couple of videos, but once I realized that I was just getting hulu.com in a frame, for example - I just went straight to hulu.com instead. I also have a list of TV related links that I can go to if I get tired of hulu - a few of them are also aggregators.
I don't quite see the value of investing energy in Neuros.TV. I think that as online TV becomes more and more popular there are going to be more and more services doing the same thing - and many will probably be better than Neuros.TV.
I think the efforts would be better placed in refining the platform. For example, even after increasing default font sizes to 14pt, Gnome (as is) doesn't seem like a particularly good desktop manager for this. The netbook remix launcher, for example, seems like it could reduce the eye strain I've been running into (I may try that...).
Refinements could also go into Firefox. I was getting pretty tired of ctrl++ until I found the No Squint extension.
Maybe these issues have more to do with my mere 32" screen, but these are my impressions at the moment. It's hard for me to judge how this will work for the average user (I was already familiar with Ubuntu) - but I don't think a fullscreen firefox window and a webapp will do it.
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