MIT Researcher: Widgets on TV Screens Don’t Work


The MIT Technology Review has discovered social TV in its new May/June issue, noting how Twitter and Facebook have been driving audience numbers for live events like the Olympics. That’s not really news to readers of this blog, but I’m glad to see that the Technology Review has come around to call our daily bread and butter one of the ten “most important emerging technologies.”

The magazine did manage to get a fairly interesting interview with Marie-José Montpetit (sorry, no embed, I guess that would have been too social), who has been working on social TV projects at the MIT’s Research Lab for Electronics and also cooperating with BT on related initiatives. The most important point she raised is that social TV shouldn’t mean cluttering the big screen with Twitter status messages and other widgets.

“You’re going to interact with the content on your TV, but with another device,” Montpetit explains, adding that people have been doing this for a while, but that it will become more sophisticated in the future. “Social television will not just be about people being (social), but also devices being social and networks being social,” he states.

That may be good news for Apple’s (s AAPL) iPad and other upcoming tablet devices, which could become the second screen of choice for TV viewers that don’t want to deal with a notebook on their laps. However, it’s a little troubling for many CE makers who have been betting that consumers will buy more expensive TV sets just because those devices feature Yahoo widgets. It could also provide challenging for over-the-top video providers like Vudu, who have been concentrating on getting content on the big screen, but haven’t invested as much work into a two-screen experience.

Related content on GigaOm Pro: With TV Apps, Over-the-Top Video Gets New Backers (subscription required)


Richard Kastelein

I am testing a new Samsung with Internet@TV and I must say, Twitter is rather cumbersome.

However, the NYT’s recently reported that Google TV is rumoured to be in the pipeline, and I think they will succeed with a single screen if done right. Seeing that Google is in talks with Logitech as well as Sony and Intel.

There’s more than enough landscape on the next generation of TV’s to allow for optional widgets to be popped in and out, and if sized correctly, I think would be fine in a single screen experience. The widgets, from a design perspective, can and should be optional and can and should be designed to be part of the overall TV experience, if planned well.

If they can get the Interactive Design down pat – I think I would be happy enough getting ‘social’ on one screen. There are many examples of websites that have this kind of alternative. On the link above, our blog has an optional widget for Twitter that can be pulled out and retracted quite nicely.


I agree. My laptop is a bit cumbersome to use while watching my LCD TV, though that didn’t stop me during the Oscars. My cell phone is too small and the battery life is better conserved for phone calls.

If I could have an iPad that I could use to run sync’ed apps while watching TV, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. Especially if I could use it to control what/how I was watching – all the usual TV remote stuff, of course, plus enter text via iPad keyboard to search listings, scrub back and forward on my DVR or VOD playback through the touch screen, instantly share clips/scenes on social networks, etc.

Steve Jobs, please make it so…!

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