Levine is founder and CEO of a new startup called Electric Objects. He outlined the general idea in a blog post earlier this month, writing that his goal is to “put the Internet on your wall”:
The Internet is a beautiful place, full of beautiful things. Yet our ability to enjoy those things is constrained to one of 30 browser tabs, or to a tiny 4” screen with whom we have a tortured and unrelenting relationship. We are overwhelmed by content, drowning in conversation, shouting at one another, flailing directionless.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Our technology is of our own design, and we can change it. We can design a device which affords the time and space to enjoy the beautiful Internet.
I spoke to Levine yesterday, and he offered a few more details about Electric Objects’ plans. He said there are four main pieces that the company is working on: There’s the Internet-connected display itself, which he said will “probably” be a 23-inch screen. There will be “community applications”, where people can find and share different media. There will be a store where artists and designers to sell their own content. And there will be an open API, allow outside developers to integrate their products with the Electric Objects display.
Personal computers, tablets and smart phones are designed for active use. They are lean forward devices, where common activities include reading email, searching the web, or playing games.
By contrast, a Media Panel is passive. It’s more like a smart sign. A family billboard where context relevant content is shared.
Your laptop, tablet and smartphone are all really designed to be used by just one person. You. Yes, you can log out of an account and log back in with a second one…but how many people really do that with the family computer or tablet? iOS requires you to log in with an Apple ID for many features like iTunes and iCloud to work. And in many implementations of Android, you can’t use the device at all until you sign in with a Google Account.
Media Panels are different. They are more like a refrigerator–an appliance that the whole family shares. I don’t have my own version–but I am able to interact with the refrigerator in a way that changes everyone’s experience. If I put things in the refrigerator or take things out of it, everyone is impacted by my actions. The same applies to pictures, notes or a calendar I might attach or remove from the refrigerator door.
Media Panels have one shared interface on the panel itself…but the way I interact with it is primarily through my smartphone or a “remote control.” In this way, there is both a shared interface and a group interface.
In this way, the Media Panel is able to learn about both me as an individual and the family as a group. Contrast this to Apple TV, where there is a single iTunes account associated with the device and required for accessing content. The problem is that our Apple TV can only play content associated with this account. If my wife has bought a TV season on her iPad, she can’t watch it on the Apple TV because it is logged in with my account. And all preferences and information about family viewing habits are aggregated in this individual account. The fact that we might watch children’s shows on our Apple TV does not mean that I want children’s shows recommended to me on my iPhone.
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