N-Screen: a second screen application for small-group exploration of on-demand content

For our latest social prototype in NoTube we return to the problem of finding interesting things to watch within large video collections, and investigate how working together might help people find something interesting.

As we’ve seen, the problem with on-demand video is too much choice is exhausting and demotivating and leads to satisficing behaviour and sometimes no choice at all, particularly in group-choice situations.

It looks as if watching together apart (watching the same thing in different physical locations) is going to be a big deal in the future. Both google and facebook are putting in place tools that allow people to hang out while watching videos together.

Lets think about a group choosing what to watch from scatch. What sorts of things do they say?

  • who is s/he? (who is that actor / participant?)
  • who directed it? (who made it?)
  • what’s it about?

but also:

  • what do you want to watch?

The first set of questions are the kinds of questions metadata can answer. Who is in it, who created it, what sort of thing you can expect from it, what it is similar to.

The second type of question is much harder. We have preferences about each others’ future mental states, or to put it another way, we would usually like everyone to enjoy the content we will watch together, without fully knowing the other participants’ preferences or state of mind. It’s a hard decision problem, and it’s no wonder people give up quickly.

N-Screen is a second screen HTML / Javascript web application that allows people to express their preferences to each other directly, by dragging and dropping content to each other individually or as a group, directly answering the second kind of question. When someone receives some content like this in N-Screen, they can click on it to see more information about it, answering the first kind of question.

The system is designed to be used in conjunction with an out-of-band communications channel (e.g. face to face chat, Skype, or IRC) for the direct negotiations, as much depends on the subtleties of communication – understanding how people are feeling – and this is best done using some familiar channel. It’s called ‘N-screen’ because it might be the primary screen, or one of a bunch of equals; it could play video locally or remotely (in theory).

It’s primarily for tablets and laptops, but runs on anything with a modern Web browser; from smartphones to touch-tables and desktop PCs. It works very nicely on a desktop PC with a touch screen; whereas it serves only as proof-of-concept on an iphone or android phone right now. Similarly, it can run on a touch table, but doesn’t make the most of its potential.

Once people have found something interesting to watch together one of them can drag and drop it to the TV and it will play.

One of the design aspirations behind this work, was to explore practical ‘hands on’ notions of collective intelligence, particularly from groups (perhaps professionals with a common goal; perhaps school children) who are intensely exploring some collection or topic together.

We have a demonstration which you are welcome to try, that uses some of the wonderful TED Talks videos. It’s a work in progress and we’ll be adding features over the next few weeks (if you want to try playing it, use this URL in another window (uses flash).

Do let us know if you have any comments.

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4 Responses to N-Screen: a second screen application for small-group exploration of on-demand content

  1. Pingback: N-Screen backend: XMPP/Jabber and group chats | NoTube

  2. Pingback: Preliminary findings of N-Screen user testing | NoTube

  3. Pingback: A node.js bot in XMPP | PlanB

  4. Pingback: A node.js bot in XMPP « Microformats & the semanantic web

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