Samsung and “Future Proof TV”

I’m sorry I’ve not written in a while, I’ve been extra busy with a submission for an architecture competition of sorts. I’ll talk more about it later, if good news come my way. Wish me luck.

Samsung has just unveiled a TV set that has a slot for hardware upgrades.
This is not irrelevant and is in line with a tendency of TV sets to become smarter and more like a living-room computer. The software on these things has been improving consistently, with advanced image and audio processing.

Now, when Samsung adds a physical bay for the swapping of hardware, things get more interesting. For some reason, they call this a “Future Proof TV”.

A few months back, I wrote that Meta Products could use their connectivity to learn about their users and adapt to them [1]. Theoretically, this could mean that products could “innovate aggressively” [2]. They could add new paradigm-shifting features (eg. cellphone  pay terminal at a cigarette vending machine) but gradually adapt these features to the user’s ability and comprehension (by searching online for usage patterns, discover common difficulties with the feature and offer the solution preemptively).

The basic issue with this is that only software gets changed and there’s only so much you can do with software. This is why the “Future Proof TV” is so cool. From my understanding, this swappable unit can affect processing performance and add extra features. But given that many TVs already have USB ports and even cameras, possibilities are endless!

While a truly “Future Proof TV” needs more than upgradeable CPU and bonus features, this certainly seems like a step towards customization and a better product life cycle policy, with less obsolescence.

Samsung has dominated the TV set market for 6 years and has taken a courageous next step to keep that edge.

While this is the beginning, one can wonder what follows. There is a sort of a motto in the maker community (makezine.com) that says “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it”. What this means is that there is a group of people (with an estimated worth above 50 million USD) that would like to take a peek at their tvs and tinker with them. In fact this is already being done.

Microsoft Kinect (expected use & modified use) is a curious and relatively recent example of the advantages of easy access to the workings (software and hardware) of the device. Apparently, the signals sent from the Kinect sensor to the Xbox were not encrypted, and attentive hackers found out how to use the amazing 3D cameras to work with homemade software. Microsoft’s first reaction was a certain displeasure with the apparent breach but the company soon realized the advantages of having an army of dedicated hobbyist trying to make the most out of the Kinect and spread that information.

I’m not sure if Samsung’s new TV is actually “hacker friendly” (I suspect that no, meaning lack of documentation, proprietary protocols and difficult to probe circuitry), but can’t help to think this is a good start. Companies realize that because consumers have alternatives for basically every single product out there, closed systems are a disadvantage.

[1] Booreiland is now promoting their book “Meta Products – Meaningful Design for Our Connected World” on the previous blog location. But check out their book, it’s good and you can get 4 out of 5 chapters for free.

[2] yup, I also think it sounds corny now.

2 comentários em “Samsung and “Future Proof TV””

  1. I assume that when you say “closed systems are a disadvantage”, you’re just referring to TVs. Otherwise, I’m forced to disagree (just think of the mac). Also, this is all perfectly fine by me, unless this possibility of hardware upgrade (and this computer-like behavior tendency in general) comes compulsorily with boring setups and whatnot.

    1. Good point. But I dont think it applies only to TVs and the like. I do think that having the option of safe tinkering can open nice possibilities. Perhaps the trick is to allow the tinkering without making it compulsory. Also, invite, support and reward such modifications while always allowing for easy reset. The later is commonly called “return to factory settings”. Considering how much we know about UX these days, making a good system must be possible.
      As for boring setups, I get what you say and again I think the trick is to make it all optional and intelligently organized, to avoid the boring part. But all of this is not about removing the boring, is more about inviting the exciting.

      You got me thinking, but in the end, assuming good architecture, I still think one could fuel some homegrown innovation.

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