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Insights for the TV Interface from the Mobile Phone Interface

Younghwan Pan and Young Sam Ryu

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 4, Issue 4, May 2009, pp. 166-177

Article Contents

Future of the TV Interface

The following sections discuss the interaction task, the input interaction, and the input device.

Interaction Task

Because of the popularity of text messaging on mobile phones (which is driven mainly by younger generations), the Text task has become the dominant interaction task, displacing the Select and Quantify tasks. Thus, mobile phones have adopted physical or on screen QWERTY keyboards to support the Text task. For TV, Select and Quantify remain the primary tasks, and no Text tasks are supported. Thus, the typical TV remote control does not have a text keyboard. However, the emergence of EPG, DVR, and PPV services may drive a requirement for a text keyboard for TV interaction. For example, entering a text string for searching a program or channel would be significantly faster than navigating through numerous channels, genre categories, and so on. Searching by actor name, director name, production year, nationality, etc. can also be easily supported by the Text task.

Input Interaction

While the jumping interaction has been the primary mechanism for both mobile phones and TVs, the new trend of touch screen phones has made the pointing interaction another primary input interaction for mobile phones. However, it is obvious that a touch screen would not be a viable solution for TV, because the users are 3 meters away from the device. Touch screen remote controls for TV would not be a good solution, because users control the handheld remote while watching TV so tactile feedback is important. Tactile feedback is a significant weakness of the touch screen interface. The pointing interaction on TV actually exists through devices such as the remote used in the Nintendo Wii video game console; however, the pointing interaction using arm and wrist movement at a distance is not an easy task as compared to the pointing interaction based on finger movements. Thus, it is unlikely that the pointing interaction will be introduced for TV users, and the jumping interaction will remain as the primary input interaction for TV.

Input Device

As shown in Table 4, various input devices have been introduced and adopted for mobile phones, while TV has relied on traditional remote control with a numeric keypad, directional keys, and recent color soft keys. Because the pointing interaction would not be a viable solution for TV, the isometric joystick and touch screen are unlikely to be adopted as TV input devices. The finger trackball could be a good input device to support jumping interactions as in the Blackberry menu, and it can support the pointing interaction very well. The click-wheel on the side could be a very good supplementary input device for TV remote, because it provides excellent tactile feedback of jumping one step at a time and it provides fast performance. Voice recognition is a difficult solution for TV, because there are already significant sounds in the usage environment from the TV or home theater speakers. A summary of the probable near future TV interfaces are shown in Table 5.

Table 5. Interaction Characteristic for TV in Near Future
Interaction TV

Interaction task


Input interaction

Jumping interaction

Input device

Numeric keypad
QWERTY keyboard
Directional keys + OK button
Color soft keys
Click-wheel on the side
Finger trackball


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