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An insight into the advanced technology of interactive television.

Technology is now innovating new ways to view information. Technologies that once existed by themselves are now coming together as one. Television, communication, and computer industries are merging their technologies, and the result is interactive television. Large corporations are betting that if interactive television is offered to the public at a reasonable price, Americans will eat it up. However, interactive television will not be as lucrative for corporations as many of them think. It has a lot of interesting possibilities with a great deal of potential for advertisers. But interactive television requires concentration and an intensity level of viewing that most Americans do not have. Americans use television as a background while they do other chores or eat dinner. They like to watch television in groups, not by themselves. The problem with interactive television is that it works best with a focused individual viewer without distractions. It also requires the user to remain indoors for long periods of time which people don’t like to do. Human beings are social animals. It is this fact that will keep them from being glued to their television sets. Clearly these factors will not allow interactive television to overtake the American home. So what exactly is interactive television and what does it do? Interactive television is the ability literally to interact with the television set just like we do with a home computer on the Internet. With the advent of fiber optics and satellite communications, the communications industry will be able to transfer megabytes of information in fractions of a second. This will allow every American access to the information super highway. It also allows others, such as advertisers, access to them. New technologies will be rushing into the market place over the next few years. Virtually all signals will be digital; analog will be a thing of the past. Large corporations like Microsoft and AT;T have already capitalized on multimedia and home PC’s. There are already CD ROM applications that use the Internet for multimedia interactive purchasing of products and vacation plans. With interactive television, virtually everyone can advertise and sell products to anyone with access. Shopping for clothes, food, or any other product can be done from the home and then delivered to the purchaser later. Bill Gates of Microsoft has already made his predictions for interactive TV: “You’re watching Seinfeld on TV, and you like the jacket he’s wearing. You click on it with your remote control. The show pauses and a Windows style drop-down menu appears at the top of the screen, asking if you want to buy it. you click ‘yes.’ The next menu offers you a choice of colors; you click on black. Another menu lists your credit cards asking which one you’ll use for this purchase. Click on MasterCard or whatever. Which address should the purchase go to, your office, your home or your cabin? Click one address and you are done the menus disappear and Seinfeld picks up where it left off. Just as you’ll already have taught the computer about your credit cards and addresses, you will have had your body measured by a 3-D version of supermarket scanners, so the system will know your exact sizes. And it will send the data electronically to a factory, where robots will custom-tailor the jacket to your measurements. An overnight courier service will deliver it to your door the next morning.” This idea may seem a little far fetched but the technology does exists to implement it. If this type of an interactive television is implemented, we might not have commercials interrupting our TV shows every ten minutes. Which sounds good at first, but instead they would be integrated into the shows themselves. Seinfeld will say to Cramer “what do you think of my new shoes? They’re the new Nike Air Jordan’s with the pump action fit and custom design. Pretty cool huh? They only cost me one hundred and thirty bucks.” Instead of commercial breaks we might have one long commercial with entertainment breaks. This type of marketing is why advertisers and big corporations are pushing so hard for interactive television. It allows for limitless possibilities in buying and selling. However, to the average American this type of advertising will not be as effective as many corporations would like. American television viewers do not watch television with the level of intensity that is required by interactive television. In a study conducted in 1988 by CBS with 1,872 people, more than two thirds of the respondents said that they use television as a way of relaxing and escaping from their ordinary day-to-day cares. This indicates that people like to tune out when they watch television, not concentrate and tune in. The term couch potato depicts the inactivity while watching television. Many people read the news paper, fold laundry or do other chores while watching the television. Four out of ten people leave their television sets on for most of the day like a light on in the house. This shows that some people pay little attention, if any at all to what they are watching. Interactive television is based on the belief that people will enjoy interfacing and communicating with the television. But Americans won’t want to use a fancy remote control to continually move a cursor around the TV screen to choose shows and products. This activity just takes too much time and energy. Americans won’t want to be bothered. Interactive television is optimized with individual viewing, not group viewing. People don’t want their friends interrupting their TV shows to check out products every five minutes. Because Americans tend to watch television in groups; this will hinder the use of interactive television. Americans use television as a form of socializing with others. People get together to watch their favorite shows. For some American families, watching television is the only time that they are all together in one room. Americans use television shows as conversational pieces with their friends and CO-workers. It is common for people to talk to their friends about their favorite TV shows. The problem is that interactive television has a way of individualizing those common television shows. Interactive television allows for shows to be ordered at different times of the day or week, eliminating the prime time bracket. So that what one person watches in their home might be different than what their friends watch at theirs. Interactive television is not a social form of entertainment and will not interest many Americans. Basic human nature implies that people are social beings who enjoy leaving the home. Interactive television assumes just the opposite. Corporations and advertisers who support interactive television say Americans will do their grocery and clothes shopping at home and have the orders delivered at a later time. Fortunately this will not be the case. People enjoy going outdoors and meeting new people. This cannot be achieved with interactive television. Americans love shopping, that’s why we’re a consumer nation. Browsing in stores, and looking at all the shops in the malls is common. Some people base their whole lives on it. Shopping is an excuse to leave the house, and for some, the only excuse. Families and friends enjoy spending time together while going out to the mall. Some people think Christmas is the best holiday only because you get to go out and do so much shopping. Flipping channels through different products on the television will not replace this American pass-time. Based on these notions, it is clear that interactive television will not meet many of the investors expectations. Americans aren’t going to be caged in their homes intently flipping through channels of endless forms of entertainment and advertisements. However, interactive television does have some benefits in education and in information retrieval. College courses and library books from all over the world could be ordered through the television. This would allow for many low income families to be educated at a fraction of the cost that it is now. But for now it is up to the corporations and advertisers as to what they offer us. The future is moving fast and by the year 2000 many new technologies will be in effect. Television will be with us for a long time, but the way we watch it is yet to be seen. It is certain that television and other forms of entertainment will change in the times to come.

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