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Bring back the conversation in a DVR world

Watercooler TV is a chat application that lets you chat about what’s happening on your TV screen, without having to watch at the same time. We designed it to make use of the second screen experience and also attempt to avoid spoilers. Want to bring back those water cooler chats of the past, where you discussed TV from the night before? This might help.


We talked to people who have some stake in TV, whether it be creating content or consuming it in some way.

We also did an in-depth investigation of existing TV market, demographics, and consumption data. What we found was inconsistency across the board. Some people watch distracted, with it on in the background; some religiously watch when it airs in isolation; some throw viewing parties. Definitely younger audiences tend to be more likely to view TV content on something other than a television. Attempts have been made to bridge device to TV set – the ‘second screen’ – but without much success. There’s a culture and unspoken ruleset for discussing TV after it airs. Some networks try to resist DVR consumption by sparking this discussion immediately with after-shows.

Concept Exploration

Concept: TV Shuffler
Concept: TV Shuffler

Our early concept exploration was around the casual TV viewer, who might just have a show on in the background while doing other things. We looked at similar services in other realms: Pandora, Last.fm, Spotify – allowing you to navigate large amounts of unknown media to get recommendations at a very low barrier to entry. The concepts didn’t really play well with anyone we talked to about it. See more about the process in this presentation . It seems that those casual viewers don’t have a strong enough motivation to use a product around TV.

Concept: TV Recommendation Engine

Our next step was exploring various social aspects of TV. We looked at gamification, group viewing, notifications of shared viewing habits, and general social network integration.

Concept animations

I created these simple animations on an iPad to capture some ideas in a dynamic way. They were surprisingly effective.

Concept: TV Info Layer

My team made this video under the direction of Dekunle, who has a strong movie production background. I mocked up a fake interface to display on the iPad.

Concept: Watercooler TV

So many people responded positively to the idea of discussing what they are watching. People want to discuss things with friends and coworkers, but everyone watches on their own schedule now with Netflix, DVR, streaming, etc. People once gathered around the water cooler at work to discuss the shows they watched the night before. People would bond over these types of discussions. We were particularly inspired by a scene from When Harry Met Sally. This last concept is what would become Watercooler TV.

When Harry Met Sally (1989) - phone call watching TV
Inspiration: two characters watch the same program at the same time and discuss in real time over the phone – “When Harry Met Sally”

We created a functional prototype of our final concept; Andrés and I programmed it. It was a webpage you pulled up on your phone, then on the screen/projector we had another webpage with the video (i.e. our ‘TV’). As the video played, comments that were left in previous viewings by others appeared at the timecode they were originally posted. We did a live demo of our functional prototype, so after one play of the video, it looped and people’s eyes lit up as they saw their comments reappear.

The Team

Me: wireframes, mockups, software prototype development, actor, information architecture
Andrés Taraciuk: software prototype development, actor
Dekunle Somade:: writing, directing
All: research, ideation, prototype testing, user interviews, persona development