An interface exploration for the Apple TV

The Apple TV interface is designed to move one object at a time. Press the right arrow key on your remote, move to the next movie in your list.

Radu Dutzan had an idea for a more direct interface (think mouse instead of arrow keys) and built this conceptual prototype using an iPhone and AirPlay. Some interesting ideas in here, definitely worth watching. As Radu mentions, the direct manipulation concept is not new, but he’s making the case that this approach is doable on Apple TV.

When I asked Radu about Apple’s Remote app, which allows much of this functionality, he said:

Remote tries to imitate this effect, but instead of allowing the user to directly manipulate controls on the screen, it’s translating swipes into discrete button clicks, since that’s the only thing the Apple TV understands today. You cannot precisely control the cursor using Remote, in fact, the behavior is quite unpredictable at times.

This is most evident on a complex button layout, such as the keyboard. I had actually never tried to use the TV keyboard by swiping on Remote, since I would just use the on-screen keyboard on the phone, but having used the prototype, there’s really a world of difference. You just can’t move the cursor freely, there’s no spatial correlation between the gesture and the movement of the cursor, and if you swipe diagonally, it actually starts to get cute: Remote will do its best, but you’ll probably just end up with the cursor two or three buttons away, on the same row or column.

Interesting experiment.