The future of digital imaging in the living room

03 Dec 2008|Lee Shupp

I recently spoke at the 6Sight Conference on the Future of Imaging in Monterey, CA. Hosted by Alexis Gerard, the conference attracts the big innovators in the industry, including Canon, Kodak, Nikon, Microsoft, HP, and many start-ups with promising new imaging technology. I spoke on a panel about the future of Living Room Imaging. Joining me were two really smart guys: Gregg Vandivert from Kodak, and Jay Elliott from Voyant International. We had an interesting and wide ranging discussion on the future of imaging in the home. Here are some highlights:

We agreed that the living room is providing many enticing new opportunities for digital imaging, with an emerging ecosystem comprised of many digital screens, from iPods and iPhones to digital photo frames to laptops to digital big screen TVs. There was a contingent at the conference that viewed the emergence of the digital big screen TV as the future focal point of digital imaging in the living room, but I don’t agree with that point of view. While I think that big screen TVs will play a role in digital imaging, the TV screen is already a very busy place in most people’s living rooms. Most people watch several hours of TV a day, with access to many channels of diverse programming, movies on demand from a variety of sources, and a DVR to time shift increasing content into the limited hours available for viewing it. In addition, game consoles now compete for screen time with TV and movies. With all of this competition for screen time on digital TVs in the living room, I think that imaging will play a secondary role on the big screen.

Some of the activities that people are already doing on their PCs may provide a preview of what digital imaging on the big screen can be like. TVs could have screen savers that show digital photos while the TV is not in active use, acting as a big digital frame when the screen is in a more passive role. Big screens can be used at parties to show images and digital slide shows to set the mood or to express a theme. Self produced multimedia may bring a “YouTube” experience to the big screen, but like YouTube vids, these are likely to be more of temporary diversion than a main event.

I think a more useful way to think about the future of imaging in the living room is to consider the emerging ecosystem of digital screens, of many different sizes and functions, that can all play a role in digital imaging. iPods and iPhones have become mobile digital photo albums that carry our most prized or most recent digital images. I carry photos of my family, my friends, and my favorite vintage guitars with me everywhere that I go, and share them often. Digital frames are becoming better and cheaper, and provide a dynamic and interesting way to view digital images in the living room, with the ability to easily display a wider range of images. Laptops are often present in the living room, allowing people to surf the web while watching TV. All of these screens complement each other, providing different opportunities to create an ecosystem of images all around us as we hang out in our living rooms.

Another thing to consider: more and more we are moving from the physical space of the living room to the virtual space of the digital living room, as people hang out online and share images on social networking sites. For people who live in cities without much physical space (hello Tokyo) or for young people in dorms or small apartments, the virtual living room is becoming an increasingly important way to share images. As the median age of social networks rises, and these practices mainstream, the virtual living room is becoming part of many people’s lives.

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