Like many of you, I consider myself quite the tech minimalist when it comes to electronics and gizmos. And like many of you, I've come to truly hate the current work flow and experience of setting up, watching, and enjoying the modern home theater. Come. Take a break from what you're doing for now and join me on this short little rant on the importance of good user experience (and how the majority of home theater tech companies out there still simply don't "get it").
Personally, I feel the blame shouldn't fall on the consumers' frustrations for having to deal with these unintuitive user interfaces and impossible to follow wiring diagrams from pro-sumer sites. It's the traditional in-the-box thinking of many companies who continue to fail miserably at delivering a truly rewarding movie watching experience without all the hassles and headaches that come with it.
For the most part, there is a large percentage of companies out there who continue to crank out hardware without much thought of the user in mind. It's quite the technology-centered approach. They tend to work with an A -> C formula in mind. A) We got a great idea! B) And look! It's supported by trends! C) Let's build it before everyone else does!
The end result? We get an army of hardware devices plagued by unintuitive menus and the home theater "experience" itself becomes an afterthought.
Let's take the idea of a home theater rack, for example. I, the tech minimalist, find this concept extremely backwards and absurd. Why would I want to switch from box to box, tweak individual settings, and feel inclined to buy a "universal remote" to "make things easier." Can't there be just a single interface for me to deal with. I just want to watch a Blu-Ray film. This is stupid.
This is probably why I don't find new concepts like Boxee's Box very appealing. Don't get me wrong, I like the Boxee software. Really, I do. I've even installed it on my PC and it's probably the slickest interface I've ever dealt with.
However, my desktop PC is located on my desk. My laptop needs to come with me everyday to work. And my home theater is situated over 100 feet away in the living room. Since wireless-HDMI is no where near affordable right now, Boxee remains forever stuck on my PC, unless I buy a Dell Zino HD or the Boxee box and throw it somewhere behind my TV. Again, this idea of purchasing yet another box to do something I need to do is nonsense. It's a waste of plastic. I don't want more hardware.
But rants are generally useless by themselves, so I've gone ahead and proposed a few solutions. How about we remove this whole attachment issue with the set top paradigm and shift it to something more convenient for the consumer? Say, like building a wireless remote controller that does everything and have a single box as a receiver? Let the screen breathe for once. Something like what the Asus EEE Keyboard (to be released later next year). That's some good stuff right there.
Finally, what about the direction of localized home media? Even though we're slowly trending to the centralized media server hub, what about backup? Once everything goes digital, shouldn't we all have a consumer-friendly and affordable backup solution for all of our media? I mean, even though it's just 0's and 1's - it's an essential part of our identity. Losing all of our photos and videos can be a horrifying experience. Why not take it mainstream and create a solution that's reliable (... unlike Time Machine), intuitive (...unlike Windows Home Server), and affordable (... unlike Drobo's NAS)? Can someone please get it right?
All in all, I'm not very happy. But as a designer, I don't believe I ever will be, so I'll end my rant here and open it up to you guys. What are your thoughts on the current scene of home theater entertainment? Share your thoughts below. I really want to hear them!
Note: This post is solely the opinion of the author. It is presented as humorous observation and does not imply any bias or bigotry. That said, feel free to agree or disagree!