The Ubiquitous Smart Screens and How Will Media Companies React

The current situation

It is no surprise that traditional media is declining. The overall number of subscription to print magazines and newspapers is low; cable ratings and record album sales continue to be depressing. The majority, instead, resort to news apps for updates and streaming sites like Netflix and Spotify for entertainment.

It is very hard to live without the screens. Let’s illustrate by setting up the scenario of the daily routine of Sam, an ordinary office worker. Sam’s day starts with reaching out to the phone while still being dizzy and sleepy: he can be easily freshened by scrolling down on the media feeds. On his work commute, Sam keeps refreshing the web pages or chats with friends on his phone. After arrival, he opens his computer, a bigger screen, to cope with the assorted affairs. During the lunch time, Sam catches up with the latest episode of Game of Thrones or play Candy Crush on iPad while occupying the bathroom. Then, after a soothing bath, he goes back to bed, switching back and forth between Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube until the unbearable tiredness strikes.

The screens have become so important that we even try to attach them to where they initially do not belong. In 2012, Google announced the prototype of Google Glass, a wearable optical that projects pictures, videos, emails, and other content on the glass right within the field of your view. Though this novel gadget ceased production, it demonstrates a growing desire for mobile screens. Apple Watch, on the other hand, is a successful try. Released in 2015 and has continued its popularity, it makes a watch not only a time reminder but also a microcomputer that monitors heart rate, provides easier accessibility to multiple media platforms, and fosters more convenient and instant communications.

If to evaluate these changes in a broader spectrum, the screen revolution began when the computer entered billions of households. After years of endeavors to create better resolutions and make thinner pads, people now tries to tie it with more objects so that we can see screens and through which access internet everywhere. The inventions and ideas are booming; we are in the late spring phase of the smart-screen K-wave.

We wonder: what led to this screen addiction or, in other words, dependence on digital content? Technically, there are two factors: mobile technology innovation and Internet development. After generations of transformations, the computer has evolved from a clumsy machine the size of a room to a wired big box, then to a portable laptop with fast speed and hyper-functionality. It largely boosts the overall social efficiency by allowing people to work whenever and wherever they want. The smart phone is another major player in human being’s never-ending pursuit of mobility and convenience. At first, a cell phone has the size of a brick and was only used for simple communications, then it was developed into a satellite phone, and it wasn’t until 2007 when Apple launched the first iPhone that mobile phones became the widely used mini-computers: touchpads became touch screens; apps took over, which largely specialized and simplified the operations on different platforms; and the sophisticated industrial design gives phones better appearance and more variations in shapes for consumers to choose.

Moreover, the mobile technology provides the canal for the development of Internet, “the mother of all disintermediating technologies.” The Internet gives people timely information and frees us from acquiring objects through a third party. For example, when we want to purchase a product not locally distributed, we can buy it on Amazon instead of contacting friends living in that area. Internet development refers to not so much the technological advancements as the construction and expansion of a tremendous online society. It builds a complete, collaborative, inclusive and multilateral human infrastructure for participants across the globe. Internet users can look through news curated by their chosen websites, post make-up videos on YouTube for millions of audience to see and send birthday greetings to their friends on their Facebook timelines. Also, with the burgeoning of more diversified and niche-targeting platforms and the boost of the quality and quantity of online content, people are more than ever hooked by the Internet. Once they sense the belongingness from the online community and develop a long-time habitual relationship with it, they could not leave.

Socially, globalization in the age of information is another drive that draws people to the online content. In a globalized world, the integration between trades, migrations, resource and communication flows all contribute to creating a new conglomerated entity. We are parts of the business and to gain the advantage, we need the fastest delivery of current news and trends, which could only be provided by the Internet. Hence, people need to check with their media platforms for the useful information constantly.

The increasing demand for the accessibility and mobility of smart screens has presented many opportunities and challenges for media companies. First of all, consumers now have greater choices regarding where to reach and from what platforms to reach. They can visit Twitter through their phones, computers, iPad, Apple watches and more developing surfaces. They prefer the ease of use to better quality. Media companies need to continue their technological innovations and keep providing consumers user-friendly and novel products that will grab their attention. Secondly, media companies should provide the right content for the users. As written in the book, Media challenged by mobility and multi-screens,

“due to the rising prominence of the Internet of things, the media world will once more have to adapt in order to offer a format that is adaptable to all users’ devices and that delivers content, which takes full advantage of the possibilities.”

Furthermore, media outlets need to carefully curate their content so that it won’t overload the audience. The problem with getting all the information instantly from everywhere is that a person can quickly feel disoriented. Hence, the content producer needs to provide individual-based and distinguishable text that keeps the reader intrigued and facilitates endurable customer loyalty so that they will keep visiting. Also, many platforms are reproducing and promoting the same idea, and people can share the content by clicking the links. Hence, the convergence between different content producer and media infrastructure is bound to happen. The publishers will have to find a way to gain the most from this growing mass coming together.

Prediction of the future screen revolution

In the future, people will try to create better display experiences. Screens, especially that of cinema, television, computer, and mobile phones, will become bendable, transparent with much higher resolutions.

Ang Lee, the director of Brokeback Mountain, has recently released his film, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. According to The Verge, in this movie, Lee

“showed off around 11 minutes of 3D footage, which was presented using twin laser projectors that delivered 4K images at an astounding 120 frames per second, per eye. That’s five times the frame rate that movies traditionally use, a change that Lee said provides crystal-clear images and removes unpleasant visual artifacts like strobing that can be present in traditional films, particularly when they’re presented in 3D.”

This new movie is a leap in the movie screen technology.

Filmmakers have always endeavored to create more immersive and realistic screen experience to convey emotions. Director James Cameron’s Avatar in 2009 featured an unprecedented success of 3D films, which henceforth being frequently applied to the following creations; Peter Jackson shot his 2012 production, The Hobbit, with dual RED Epic cameras on a 3D rig and he shoot it at 48 frames per second (twice the normal rate) in an effort to achieve high frame rating filmmaking. It has been a tradition for the film industry to innovate the display technology, and it will continue to do so in the future.

The television industry is also closely associated with this resolution game. Though cable TV is losing its power, television still has a solid customer base and is trying to bring forth new ideas to compete with online streaming sites. Televisions, in need of more mobility, are getting thinner and thinner. Sony 4K TV, debuted at CES 2015, is just 4mm thick at its thinnest point. Moreover, television will begin to incorporate curved screens and screens with 4K or even 5K resolution to achieve the cinema-level involvement.

Another important screen revolution the world needs to be prepared with is the mobile device screen transformation. Mobile consumption is rising. Early this year, as reported by WARC, Zenith’s Media Forecasts predicted that mobile internet consumption would increase by more than a quarter this year, climbing 27.7% and driving a 1.4% increase in overall media consumption. In the future, mobile devices will become waterproof, transparent, bendable, and even more mobile. The Cicret Bracelet is an existing idea about the future phone. With the bracelet, the screen ceases to be the cold plastic but your warm skin. You can stay online while bathing without worrying about it being ruined the water; the risk of getting your phone stolen is widely limited because your phone is now on your waist. Furthermore, they would have the curved and transparent screen so that mobile viewing could also be immersive.

The Cicret Bracelet

Meanwhile, don’t forget the trending Virtue Reality business. Beyond gaming, VR has many other fascinating uses. For example, with apps like Oculus Cinema, the audience can easily feel like they were parts of the story; museum-goers can be instantly transported to the Forbidden city of China, Louver or Paris, or the Buckingham Palace because of the VR technology. Google launches incredible virtual tours of London’s Natural History Museum, which allows people to walk through Museum’s halls from home. VR manages to provide a virtue 360-degree screen that fully involves the audience. The next step, for the VR technology and content-producers, is to create better screen experience by increasing the quality of this virtue screen and make contents that can fit this form of display. Meanwhile, VR technology will incorporate the gesture interface so that viewers can not only see the objects in front of their eyes but also pick it up and feel the texture. VR technology combined with gesture interface would be especially useful for the e-commerce business. If a customer wants to buy a T-shirt but is suspicious about the actual material, this method would help.

Besides upgrading the existing screens, a bigger picture would be to make the screens everywhere. Standard things like mirrors, cars, glasses, fridges will all have smart displays. The concept is not new. Samsung’s Family Hub fridge allows the users to manage their groceries with ease.

The built-in cameras will show you what is inside of the refrigerator without wasting the energy. The machine is Wi-Fi-connected, you can read and share the receipt to your social circle, order food directly from your refrigerator door, and stream music using apps like Pandora. You will not need an extra device in the kitchen. In this way, there will be no “Oh; I forgot to buy eggs, so today we can’t have them for breakfast” or “crap, the oil splashed on my computer” situation. However, there is more to come. In the future, you will be able to receive texts, social websites updates, and latest news through this screen. It will fully incorporate motion detecting, voice recognition, and gesture interface technology so that you can reply and control the “fridge phone” more easily. Another example, imagine your bathroom mirror can do way beyond passively reflect your figure. It can tell you your skin situation, provide solutions, automatically buying skincare products or makeups through inserted apps. It can tell you what to wear according to the weather and latest fashion trends. It, of course, will allow full social media interactions. You will never miss a thing. In conclusion, in the future, more objects will have screens that make them function like a smartphone. You will always be connected no matter where you are.

Moreover, most mobile machines will have a largely curtailed size and display the content through screen projection. This year, Panasonic just released their new dazzling projected transparent television whose display locates between shelves while home décor behinds it. This television takes next to zero space to your home. Adoption of smaller machines is particularly crucial in the face of the urbanization across the globe. According to the Futuring: The Exploration of the Future, it is happening on a massive scale in the developing nations, primarily because people in rural areas can not make a living.” In the long term, it contributed to the formation of the six super trends, deculturization, while the direct result of it is the space shortage in the major cities. People will have a smaller house, and some of them choose to live in a tiny room to save life expenses. Moreover, the worldwide population growth makes the ability to maximize the capability of a confined space extremely crucial and urgent. The Tiny House Movement where people try to downsize their living space is a response to this growing trend. Under this situation, the minimization of the machines could save a considerable amount of space and make life more efficient and environmental-friendly. Futuring also stated that “increasing mobility,” “economic growth” and “technological process” are the supertrends. In the coming age, when sustainability is not an option but a necessity, human beings will have to live consciously, using highly developed technology like energy-saving smart fridges, and adopt smaller and mobile machines to save space and increase productivity.

Prescription and Scenario of the possible screen revolution

To adapt to the omnipresence and omnipotence of the screens, or in other words, the ubiquitousness of media, media companies need to first, produce content and applications that are compatible with the future display of higher quality and various forms. Though Ang Lee’s film has opened audience’s eyes to 4K display, as said on the New Tech TV, “broadcast and cable TV networks won’t start seriously investing in 4K until it’s proven that 4K televisions are really a thing.” Hence, it remains a challenge and mystery if content producers will keep upping their production to fit the advanced screen displays, which is yet to become a market.

Moreover, since the already massive and a complicated global social network will have more and more connecting spots, it is crucial for media companies to find and keep track of the traffics. They need to understand, how does the content flow between sites, through what intermediaries, at what platform will they reach the maximum readers and shares. The media companies should learn from the method BuzzFeed applied: BuzzFeed Pound. It is a remarkable technology that decrypts how to optimize and understand the network diffusion. As introduced on its official introduction, instead of studying the online activities within each site, the “bucketed data,” BuzzFeed captures internet’s “inherent tree structure.” It tracks how articles, videos, photos or pictures goes from one site to another site, one user to another user. It does not locate and identify the user, the data collected is “based on an oscillating, anonymous hash in a sharer’s URL as a UTM code.” Media companies, especially major ones like Facebook. Twitter and Google will have to adapt to the future by developing a much more complex tracking system so that they could find out questions like where do Tasty videos receive more likes, on a regular PC site or through a fridge screen.

Right now, people are already expecting media creators to bring more individually curated content. As the media accessibility increases, they would expect to receive different content based on the attached objects. For instance, they may want to receive more fashion trends on the mirror screen. Media companies may want to act upon request. Facebook may develop a section called “Facebook Fashion” to meet the needs.

Furthermore, it is possible that many brands will join the game, starting to provide media content. Kate Spade may produce an application or a news site called “Kate Spade Daily,” which could be downloaded on a mirror screen to tell users what to wear in the morning. The dressing rooms could adopt the same idea. Customers will be able to ask for assistance, change size, share images with friends for their advice through the buttons on the mirror screen. They could spot the design they want but can’t find through searching on the screen. In this way, they may shop more efficiently. They could also receive daily news about the brand while testing the clothes out and possibly purchase more. For a wall screen that tells you the indoor temperature, air quality and controls the electronics through gesture interface and motion detector, IKEA could invent something called “IKEA Living” to remind users how to live more environmental-friendly. In conclusion, through this way, brands can sell both goods and a lifestyle, which could lead to the emotional investment that brings back the customers.

Under this situation, another possibility is that the conglomeration of different media company or brands media may happen or accelerate. Platforms will grow to outnumber the valuable content, people will be easily distracted by all these platforms and wants more associated information. Thus, media companies may want to become one to earn profit collectively.

However, how will the presumed screen revolution be played out is debatable. There could be a set of five scenarios. In a surprise-free scenario, people will try to develop better displays, but the screens will stay where they already are. Some objects like fridges already have screens, but they are not smart enough, and there will be no mass adoption. In an optimistic scenario, more screens will occur on different objects, and the applications and content will be individually curated and more comprehensively tracked. If the screen transformation turns out to a pessimistic result, people will feel tired of being controlled by screens; they may eliminate the use of it; if the transformation happens, we may find a marvelous substitute that allows us the full entry to the social network.

While the possible screen revolution brings media companies an excellent opportunity to rearrange their advertising and marketing strategy, we could not forget that this new trend could trigger some problems. First of all is the possibility of the leak of privacy. While enjoying the convenience technology bring us, being exposed to screens everywhere at all the times could mean that our activities are entirely supervised and monitored. If some hacker wants to find out the government secrecy, he could find a way to destroy the system and gain the confidential information. The other concern is the detachment from real life caused by high screen dependence. Human beings are already overly devoted to the virtue world if we make the media more approachable than it already is, the divide between real life and the online world could be deepened. It would become a major ethical problem if we only could communicate with each other through the help of screens. Also, long time exposure to screens could lead to serious physical and mental health problems including depression, eye irritation, and cervical spondylosis.

What if all of this would not happen? It is totally possible. If people are getting sickened by the idea of letting the internet steal their life, they may feel content with what they already have. Also, the high cost of producing and applying the smart screens may stop the business owners.

In any case, the media companies should act beforehand and prepare for any possible situations. Will the screen revolution keep happening? Let’s wait and see.