Thanks to a tip from reader Jack I discovered a post in the blog 'Infinite Abyss' which has some very interesting information. The blogger was asked to answer a survey for e-rewards.com, and he noticed the survey was sponsored by TiVo. It turned out the survey was designed to gather feedback on a UI design for a DVR, a UI that is radically different from what TiVo has today. He posted images from the survey as well as three WMV videos of the proposed UI in action - video 1, video 2, and video 3.
I've emailed the author to ask for permission to rehost his images and videos, since I fear this may 'Slashdot' his blog. If I get permission I'll edit this post to link to new sources. (I did rehost a couple for this post to avoid direct linking his images and abusing his bandwidth.) For now check out his blog post for more images and the videos.
EDIT: EngadgetHD has re-posted the videos via Viddler: I really like this new design. And I spotted some interesting things in the videos.
In the first video you see that under the 'My Shows' menu there appears to be folders for different members of the family - 'All, Mom, Dad, Mom & Dad, Jeff'. That's an oft requested feature. There is also an interesting item 'Connect with family & friends', which hints at some kind of social networking. And an ambiguous 'Extras' button. Of course, the biggest and most obvious change is the way the currently playing video keeps playing in the upper right corer, and the 'ribbon at the top contains suggestions for other content presented as thumbnails.
And the video continues the Find TV, movies, & more menu looks to have similar options to today's TiVo. The My Recordings menu is different with what appear to be filters on the left (All, HD, TV Shows, Movies, Playlists, My Providers). The last filter is interesting, sounds like it allows you to filter say cable from Amazon VOD. The list of videos itself is laid out a bit differently. And one item jumped out - "Recommendations from Friends". Again, social networking implied. This is something I've been saying TiVo should do for years now. There is also one called "Bookmarks" which is intriguing, people have long asked for a way to 'Bookmark' locations in content.
Drilling down into 'House' in the folder the way the episodes are presented is nice, with 'Season X, Episode Y' shown right on the list. But one down into a specific episode I'm again intrigued by the 'Bonus features' link. Sounds like it is setup for content providers to provide DVD-style bonus content to link to their shows. An interesting value add TiVo could provide.
In the second video (note the TV content is the same, the videos demo different menu flows) it goes down into Browse TV & Movies. On the left are filters for TV shows, Movies, and, again. Video providers. TV shows contains the options Most popular TV shows, Now available to download, HD shows, TV networks, Catagories [sic - their misspelling], and Search all TV shows. Movies contains New releases, Most popular rentals & purchases, HD movies, Free & on sale, Search all movies, Movie trailers, and, oddly, Search all movies. Well, this is almost certainly a mock up for the survey, so little quirks aren't unusual.
When you drill down into Movies: New Releases you get a screen that looks remarkably like Amazon VOD's shopping screens with a grid of cover art and as you select each title the details appear in a panel on the right. Very nice looking interface. But most interesting is that once you drill down into a specific title you see icons at the top for the provider(s) it is available from - the list shows Amazon Unbox (clearly this mock up was made before the name change to Amazon Video On Demand), Blockbuster, and Netflix. Select 'Rent this movie' and it shows options:
- FREE from Netflix [HD]
- Amazon ($4.99) [HD]
- Blockbuster ($5.99) [HD]
- FREE with Blockbuster Total Access [HD]
- Rent in standard definition from $3.99
That's interesting in that multiple providers are shown and that all of the primary options are for HD content, something TiVo lacks for Amazon VOD today. I'm sure it is speculative, since Netflix doesn't do HD streaming (and doesn't do downloads at all today), but I like where that is going.
The third video shows the ribbon at the top of the screen. When you select one of the items there a 'drop down' section appears with details on the item and an explanation of why that content is being recommended to you. I have to say that, of all the elements of this UI, this is the one that doesn't grab me. I don't use Suggestions that much. Sure, I have them on, but I only use them when I'm out of my own recorded content. And I don't check to see what is being suggested often enough that I think it'd be useful to have on the main UI screen. But maybe having it there would change my behavior, hard to say.
One of the images shows an interesting ability to control the elements of the ribbon. Apparently allowing you to adjust how often TV content, Movies, or Advertisements appear, using sliders to adjust the weightings, as shown in the image. I do like that ability.
All in all I really, really like the look of this UI concept. I wonder if this is something we might see on the 'Series4', or, hopefully, perhaps an update for the existing Series3/TiVo HD units. Of course, this was just a survey on the concepts for a new UI. It could be complete pie-in-the-sky that will never see the light of day. TiVo could change their UI in completely different ways. But I do like the direction this mock up indicates is being considered.
As I said, if the author gives permission I'll repost all of the images and videos to be more accessible. This is very exciting news.