While there is no doubt that Smart TVs have gotten a lot smarter in just the last two years, they haven’t necessarily become more intuitive. There’s an entire generation just as uncomfortable with Smart TV interfaces as it is with the smartphones and tablets that they emulate – we’re talking about folks who are used to channel surfing to find what they want to watch, not launch a global app search.
The TV industry is at a pivotal point now. With Smart TV penetration reaching critical mass, the manufacturer that comes to market with a more approachable, intuitive Smart TV UI first stands to capture the attention of industry and consumer-folk alike. Normally, we’d count on Apple for this sort of game-changing move, but the company is struggling to get its TV out the door. That being the case, could it be China-based Hisense that ends up turning Smart TV on its ear?
Hisense recently informed Digital Trends that it is introducing a new approach to Smart TV user interfaces called VIDAA. The company says VIDAA will offer an experience unlike anything that’s previously come to the Smart TV or OTT market.
VIDAA is an interface designed and engineered by Jamdeo, a joint venture run by Hisense and based in Toronto, Canada. The new UI will roll out in China this week first, with a launch in North America expected in early 2014.
The interface is meant to be passive, and is split up into four “content silos” that should simplify access to content from various sources. The silos are Live TV, video-on-demand, (VOD), Media Center and Apps. VOD will focus on VOD services, though content sources haven’t been revealed for the North American market just yet. Media Center accesses localized personal content, while Live TV and Apps are pretty straightforward.
A revamped remote control has buttons designated specifically for each silo. On top of that, Hisense will limit the number of buttons on the remote to just 28, much lower than the 80 found on some TV remotes these days.
Hisense is looking to make a lasting impact on the TV market, citing statistics showing more than 50 million Smart TVs shipped in 2012, with an increase up to 150 million expected by 2015. If Hisense is right in positing that VIDAA is “the peak of intelligence in the industry and will become the new standard for the category”, then the company may be the major industry player we expect it will be in a couple of years.
Still, the Smart TV interface has been under the microscope more lately because of Apple’s much-rumored entry into the TV space, and Samsung, LG, Sony and others have been trying to get the right combination of services, apps and a solid interface to deliver it to consumers.
Except some of this has only confused those very same consumers. Other attempts were too walled off, or simply not intuitive enough. Hisense figures it has found the right formula to make it just as easy for the average consumer or baby boomer, than it would be for tech-savvy users.
It will be a while yet before VIDAA comes to the U.S., and it could be interesting to see how this plays out if the rumors involving other competitors turn out to be true.