Clickable video hotpots and "Wii-motes"

Most Internet surfers speed past the endless array of advertisements that litter our web experience like graffiti at a bus stop. Occasionally, however, something catches our eye, and that was the case when I decided to click on this ad as I prepared to watch a video on MSNBC.

Most Internet surfers speed past the endless array of advertisements that litter our web experience like graffiti at a bus stop. Occasionally, however, something catches our eye, and that was the case when I decided to click on this ad as I prepared to watch a video on MSNBC.

Basically, the ad for Kohl's, a department store chain, is a demonstration of clickable regions in video. Though I have seen the concept before, this was the first time I had encountered a Microsoft implementation of the technology. Clickable regions are great from a marketing standpoint, as they enable companies to link advanced content, or even the ability to instantaneously purchase an item, to what a customer is watching on the screen.

Though clickable regions on video consumed through a PC is interesting, far and away the most common way to access video content is through a TV set. Most of the videos I watch on my computer are news clips or user-generated content from places like YouTube. On occasion, clickable regions might be useful from an information standpoint (e.g. making a map with the various countries of the middle east clickable so as to show the history of the region), but I rarely find myself wishing I could dress like a newscaster.

TV is the conduit through which people receive most video entertainment content, and entertainment content provides stacks of cross-marketing opportunities. You might want to dress like a person you see in a sitcom, and the ability to click on a particular article of clothing and find information on it - if not purchase it outright (to be billed through your cable company) - might be appealing.

Further, clickable regions might help to make up for viewer eyeballs lost to TiVo-style technology which makes time-shifting, and thus, speeding past commercials, extremely simple to do. Product linkages interwoven into the fabric of video content can result in some fairly lucrative product placement opportunities (though there are limits; how often do you have an opportunity to advertise toilet paper in an episode of CSI: Miami).

The problem, however, is that "hot regions" on a TV are not as easy to click as they would be on a PC, given the absence of a mouse. That got me thinking about the Nintendo Wii.

The Nintendo Wii has been selling like hotcakes in no small part due to the innovative design of its motion-activated controller. Games like Golf, Bowling or Tennis are played not with thumbs wiggling small widgets on a controller, but moving your arms in a semi-natural fashion that maps roughly to what you'd actually be doing if you were Golfing, Bowling or playing Tennis.

These motion-generated game events, however, are vastly more complicated than moving a cursor around on a TV screen. So, why not create a television remote control that uses normal hand movements to guide which item on screen has focus, or where applicable, move an on-screen cursor around the screen?

This would make using video hotpots through a TV set easy to do. Further, as anyone who has signed up for XBOX Live through their TV would know, using arrow buttons to enter things like name, email address, etc. using an on-screen keyboard is a serious pain. A controller that moved an on-screen cursor would be 100 times easier to use.

Of course, there are implementation complexities. For one, you'd want the controller to know when it was pointing at the TV, even if the device to which the controller communicates is a Set-Top Box sitting six feet off to the side (or worse, in a separate room). Further, you'd want to be able to control the TV from various angles in the room, not just when sitting squarely in front of the TV set.

These issues, however, shouldn't qualify as rocket science, and though I haven't had the chance to play a game on Nintendo's new game console as of yet, I figure the copmany must have had to face at least some of these issues. Some combination of location detection relative to the Set-Top Box combined with an initial orientation step (e.g. touch the business end of the controller to the front of your TV and hit the "OK" button) seems like a possible solution, as you could cross-reference to figure out the rest of the information you'd need.

Anyway, just an idea, and if someone is already doing this, wonderful...tell me about it in the Talkbacks.

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