The biggest untapped opportunity in home entertainment is interactive television. I know I am not the first to say this but there seems to be a belief that iTV has a tech barrier around it, and that we are not “there yet” technologically.
I believe there IS a currently achievable form of iTV and think the first logical step, which would be widely accepted, economically viable, and a true a paradigm shift in home entertainment, is an alternative data presentation screen, or overlay, for sports programming.
This type of enhancement for television sports viewing could actually start right now, with no revolutionary technology. The immediately realizable version of this would be simply another channel that is devoted to synchronous presentation of sports data simulcast with a live sporting event. The television user could either use the split screen capability of their television or use the “channel flash” button which allows jumping back and forth between channels. The split screen capability has less penetration, having only been a feature of high end televisions in the past, but is becoming more prevalent. Another challenge is that many cable boxes nullify the dual tuners in televisions that do have this capability. However the “channel flash” button has been a standard for over a decade and would be the easiest and most widely accessible “interactive trigger”.
The audio from the primary video channel of the event would be simulcast on the data channel and the data channel could even go to commercial breaks simultaneously as well. (Although I personally can’t wait until we can get around this).
I primarily follow the video game industry and the reason I am so interested in interactive television, even though the user is not playing a game, is because the game developers and modding community are designing interfaces and alternative viewing screens which I believe will eventually become the model for iTV data presentation.
An F1 Racing Data Presentation Screen from a video game. (Source: rFactor Central / BeBa)
An even deeper form of iTV, which may be technologically achievable right now, is for the user to have the ability to actively manipulate a data presentation screen such as the one presented in the figure above. This would require a gaming console or dedicated device connected to the internet. A gaming console which could receive a feed of data over the internet from a sporting event could theoretically create an alternative data "channel" which is independent of the television programming itself ora data “overlay” which could be adjusted in size, position, color, transparency, etc. The user could define a delay in the real time update so that spoilers are not a problem and the presentation is more finely synchronized with the event. Of course the non-real time features are perhaps the largest benefit would have no issues with synchronization, such as obtaining data about a race car or the history of a driver.
Interactive television is represents another tangent for video game technology and it brings together two very active audience segments -- gamers and sports fans. There is already quite a bit of overlay here and it will be interesting to see how this intersection spawns new applications.