10-foot User Interface

Steam controller

In computing a 10-foot user interface is a software GUI (graphical user interface) designed for display on a large television (or similar sized screen) with interaction using a regular television-style remote control. ’10-foot’ refers to the fact that the GUI’s elements—i.e. menus, buttons, text fonts, and so on—are theoretically ergonomically large enough to read easily at a distance of 10 feet (3 m) from the display. To avoid distractions and to be more clear, 10 foot UIs also tend to be very simple and usually only have the minimum core buttons.

Typical examples of popular 10-foot user interfaces are HTPC (Home theater PC) media center software applications such as Google TV, MediaPortal, XBMC, Windows Media Center, and Front Row / Apple TV interfaces, but most other Smart TV and set-top boxes devices and software with interactive television interfaces also belong in this category. In 2010, Hillcrest Labs released the Kylo browser, which is a web browser optimized for television use, which features a 10-foot user interface. Hillcrest also invented the first motion-controlled remote for television.

Common setting for the 10-foot user interface is a home theater or living room with surround sound speaker setup. The distance between viewer and TV varies, but is typically 10-feet with a 32″ or larger big-screen television display. Television here is defined to be a typical living room television experience, meaning displayed on a big screen, where the user is sitting far away from it, and the dominant form of input will be something like a D-pad on a remote control, not through touch or mouse. The GUIs on desktop computers typically assume the user’s eyes are less than two feet (60 cm) from the display (2-foot user interface). Ten-foot interfaces may resemble other post-WIMP (‘windows, icons, menus, pointer’) systems graphically, due to a similar paucity of pixels, but do not assume the use of a touch screen.

The goal of 10-foot user interface design is to make the user’s interaction as simple and efficient as possible, with as few button presses as possible while still having an intuitive layout, in terms of accomplishing user goals—what is often called ‘user-centered design.’ Good user interface design facilitates finishing the task at hand without drawing unnecessary attention to itself. Graphic design may be utilized to support its usability, however the design process must balance technical functionality and visual elements (e.g., mental model — an explanation of someone’s thought process about how something works in the real world) to create a system that is not only operational but also usable and adaptable to changing user needs.

A standard TV remote is the generally preferred input device for a 10-foot GUI. Alternatively, if the GUI is for a video game console, then the user should be able to control the menus via the primary game input device. Object-oriented user interface design (e.g. UI for a vector graphics program that recognizes objects like lines, circles, and canvases) with Post-WIMP and WIMP general representation of objects that can be interacted with, and context menu and on screen virtual keyboard are used as a deeper level of UI elements when more verbose input is needed, instead of requiring an external keyboard or mouse. Visually, all fonts must be anti-aliased (blurred) to be easily readable. Single pixel lines or details are avoided as older televisions and low-resolution displays may simply not display such fine detail, and content will flicker if running on an interlaced display mode since a single row of pixels will be visible only half the time. Lastly, anything that requires the user to physically interact with the interface and forces the user to get up and cross the room should be avoided.

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