Is TiVo Working On An All-New User Interface?

New TiVo Interface 1

Thanks to a tip from reader Jack I discovered a post in the blog ‘Infinite Abyss’ which has some very interesting information. The blogger was asked to answer a survey for, and he noticed the survey was sponsored by TiVo. It turned out the survey was designed to gather feedback on a UI design for a DVR, a UI that is radically different from what TiVo has today. He posted images from the survey as well as three WMV videos of the proposed UI in action – video 1, video 2, and video 3.

I’ve emailed the author to ask for permission to rehost his images and videos, since I fear this may ‘Slashdot’ his blog. If I get permission I’ll edit this post to link to new sources. (I did rehost a couple for this post to avoid direct linking his images and abusing his bandwidth.) For now check out his blog post for more images and the videos.

EDIT: EngadgetHD has re-posted the videos via Viddler:

I really like this new design. And I spotted some interesting things in the videos.

In the first video you see that under the ‘My Shows’ menu there appears to be folders for different members of the family – ‘All, Mom, Dad, Mom & Dad, Jeff’. That’s an oft requested feature. There is also an interesting item ‘Connect with family & friends’, which hints at some kind of social networking. And an ambiguous ‘Extras’ button. Of course, the biggest and most obvious change is the way the currently playing video keeps playing in the upper right corer, and the ‘ribbon at the top contains suggestions for other content presented as thumbnails.

New TiVo Interface 2

And the video continues the Find TV, movies, & more menu looks to have similar options to today’s TiVo. The My Recordings menu is different with what appear to be filters on the left (All, HD, TV Shows, Movies, Playlists, My Providers). The last filter is interesting, sounds like it allows you to filter say cable from Amazon VOD. The list of videos itself is laid out a bit differently. And one item jumped out – “Recommendations from Friends”. Again, social networking implied. This is something I’ve been saying TiVo should do for years now. There is also one called “Bookmarks” which is intriguing, people have long asked for a way to ‘Bookmark’ locations in content.

Drilling down into ‘House’ in the folder the way the episodes are presented is nice, with ‘Season X, Episode Y’ shown right on the list. But one down into a specific episode I’m again intrigued by the ‘Bonus features’ link. Sounds like it is setup for content providers to provide DVD-style bonus content to link to their shows. An interesting value add TiVo could provide.

In the second video (note the TV content is the same, the videos demo different menu flows) it goes down into Browse TV & Movies. On the left are filters for TV shows, Movies, and, again. Video providers. TV shows contains the options Most popular TV shows, Now available to download, HD shows, TV networks, Catagories [sic - their misspelling], and Search all TV shows. Movies contains New releases, Most popular rentals & purchases, HD movies, Free & on sale, Search all movies, Movie trailers, and, oddly, Search all movies. Well, this is almost certainly a mock up for the survey, so little quirks aren’t unusual.

When you drill down into Movies: New Releases you get a screen that looks remarkably like Amazon VOD’s shopping screens with a grid of cover art and as you select each title the details appear in a panel on the right. Very nice looking interface. But most interesting is that once you drill down into a specific title you see icons at the top for the provider(s) it is available from – the list shows Amazon Unbox (clearly this mock up was made before the name change to Amazon Video On Demand), Blockbuster, and Netflix. Select ‘Rent this movie’ and it shows options:
- FREE from Netflix [HD]
- Amazon ($4.99) [HD]
- Blockbuster ($5.99) [HD]
- FREE with Blockbuster Total Access [HD]
- Rent in standard definition from $3.99

New TiVo Interface 6

That’s interesting in that multiple providers are shown and that all of the primary options are for HD content, something TiVo lacks for Amazon VOD today. I’m sure it is speculative, since Netflix doesn’t do HD streaming (and doesn’t do downloads at all today), but I like where that is going.

New TiVo Interface 5

The third video shows the ribbon at the top of the screen. When you select one of the items there a ‘drop down’ section appears with details on the item and an explanation of why that content is being recommended to you. I have to say that, of all the elements of this UI, this is the one that doesn’t grab me. I don’t use Suggestions that much. Sure, I have them on, but I only use them when I’m out of my own recorded content. And I don’t check to see what is being suggested often enough that I think it’d be useful to have on the main UI screen. But maybe having it there would change my behavior, hard to say.

New TiVo Interface 3

One of the images shows an interesting ability to control the elements of the ribbon. Apparently allowing you to adjust how often TV content, Movies, or Advertisements appear, using sliders to adjust the weightings, as shown in the image. I do like that ability.

New TiVo Interface UI adjustments

All in all I really, really like the look of this UI concept. I wonder if this is something we might see on the ‘Series4′, or, hopefully, perhaps an update for the existing Series3/TiVo HD units. Of course, this was just a survey on the concepts for a new UI. It could be complete pie-in-the-sky that will never see the light of day. TiVo could change their UI in completely different ways. But I do like the direction this mock up indicates is being considered.

As I said, if the author gives permission I’ll repost all of the images and videos to be more accessible. This is very exciting news.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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  • Gryphon

    Social networking as part of the UI? Come on, now. Are we gerbils? If you see something on TV you think a friend of yours might like, disconnect your brain from the TiVo for 20 seconds and send him an email. Sheesh. :)

    (Can’t say I’m too enamored of the thing they want feedback about in the top image, either. Too much like those irritating ad banners at the tops of websites. But then I’ve never had much use for You Might Also Like features, so don’t go by me.)

    I do like the bit about organizing television shows by season and episode, though, like everything else a TiVo does regarding show identification and sorting, that’s dependent on the networks bothering to provide the right information to whoever does the indexing, and that, in my experience, isn’t something they put their brightest people on, as a general rule.

  • Rich W.

    I’m not thrilled with the new top bar either. I can’t think of a time I’ve wanted to use the menu while watching my show (I know others have). If I’m watching a show, I focus on that, if I’m using the menu I want to focus on that. Also, I don’t like that fact that a bar that I don’t see me ever using takes up 1/3 of the screen. I rather have that space used so I can see more of the menus on the screen. e.g. when I’m browsing my list of recordings, I’d rather see 3-4 more rows of content than that bar. Other than that – it looks a lot better and it’s formatted for HD unlike now with the stretched SD menus.

  • cckrobinson

    I absolutely love it. Tivo has needed to overhaul the UI for years. The current UI is simple and functional, but I believe Vista Media center is quite a few steps ahead. I can’t see Tivo automatically pushing a new UI down to everyone. There are tons of current users that could care less about additional features and a new look and feel would scare them. Hopefully tivo will offer the new UI as an available SW update. I’ll be the first to sign up. I really hope Netflix integration is around the corner. I’m excited about Tivo again!

  • lundberry

    Because of the way Tivo works they would either push it all or nothing with a new interface like this. Because they try to ensure that all new features get pushed to as many people as possible they would not intentionally keep two code bases any longer than absolutely necessary. It was not to long ago that slowly started the stoppage of support of the S2 code base. They split the code bases at 9.3.1 I believe. What you will see happening is Tivo either enacting a new UI or not.

    I think that if this is an accurate mockup which I am not necessarily positive is true it would probably be assumable that they figure that you are going to be streaming content to it not necessarily downloading ie doing something like the roku box. Unfortunately by the time I made it to the site today the video’s had been pulled from youtube.

    The suggestions that are made if they are made early might be nice like suggesting new shows for this fall when they become available to schedule would be very convenient. Additionally I think that this feature would be convenient for some more obscure shows that are similar to current shows watched. I do not have enough time to find similar shows and will usually only discover them after a period of time when other people will suggest them during conversations.

  • coldtoes

    This looks really interesting. My one concern is whether there would be a way NOT to see live TV while navigating the menu. I always hit the TiVo button immediately when I turn on the TV so I don’t spoil anything I’m planning to watch later. Based on some of the other comments about the ribbon, a “view ribbon” yes/no setting might be desirable, but TiVo tends towards consistent interfaces and not providing people with options like that.

    @lundberry – Didn’t realize they were stopping support on the S2 codebase. Yikes. Maybe that’ll be the thing that finally pushes me to shell out for HD. (Sad, I know.) The economy’s not helping, however.

  • MegaZone

    There has been no indication that they are stopping support for the S2 code base that I’m aware of. Yes, the S2 got 9.3.1 while the S3/HD went to 9.4, but TiVo has never said that the S2 will not get more updates. And, given that the S2DT is still manufactured and sold, and is the *only* model sold in Canada and Mexico, let alone accounting for the vast majority of the installed base, it seems highly unlikely that they will cease updating the S2 code base in the near future.

    That said, there is no question the TiVo HD is the flagship product at this time and development will focus primarily on the S3/HD platform. And, of course, that hardware supports features the S2 hardware does not, so there will be things the S2 never gets.