AdaptiveWatch: Bringing synthetic content to digital television viewing

UX Design
UX Research
Maggie Chen
Phipson Lee
Divya Mohan
Gabriela Suazo
my roles
Design Lead
Web Developer
Contextual Inquiry
Diary Study
Affinity Diagramming
Experience Mapping
Lean Design Practice

Using user-centered design to speculate about novel user experiences surrounding digital TV that could be feasible in the next few years. We explore how nascent technologies may be used to satisfy user needs that are expected to emerge in the near future.

AdaptiveWatch leverages the user's current and historical context such as emotion, attention level, and historic viewing preferences to adapt visual, auditory, and narrative modalities. This brings a personalized TV viewing experience that addresses key pain points and future-facing sentiments.

Flip the channel, see the future

Our client's initial prompt to the team was to employ user-centered design to incorporate emerging technology in a novel digital media experience that could be feasible in 3 to 5 years. We aimed to bring value to InterDigital by providing them with insight into the end user's current and emerging behaviors and needs to design a human-centered experience. We also give InterDigital insight into the potential value of certain emerging tech to drive investment into key intellectual properties.

It's all synthetic

After sessions of Exploratory Research, Generative Study Sessions, and Design Validation, the team has designed a TV viewing experience that ticks all the boxes. AdaptiveWatch is a context-aware tv viewing mode that adapts visual, auditory, and narrative modalities according to emotions, attention levels, and historic viewing preferences.

We presented our designed solution along with research backing, design recommendations, and a dynamic live demo of the adaptation module implemented in Unity. For more information on the final product, feel free to visit the project website.

Understanding the way TV fits into life today

We began by deconstructing the current state of digital television, reanalyzing conventions about what TV needed to look and feel like to ready ourselves for a future-thinking mindset. The goal is to understand the role TV plays in the daily routine, and as an emotional and social agent in everyday life.

Affinity Diagramming
Experience Mapping


Partial attention, and attention switching

Users consume digital content constantly as a secondary activity. They want to be able to access content anytime and anywhere when doing mundane tasks and switch attention to and from the content.


The Collective experience

When viewing in groups, people value each other’s company and preference more so than individual preferences.


Molding content for select audiences

When sharing stories on social media, users subconsciously go through a filtering process where they filter out the things they don’t want certain audiences to see.

Back to the future

As the project has progressed, the team has evolved the project focus towards a future-thinking direction that closely aligns with InterDigital’s concurrent research and development. We endeavored to explore ways to smoothly integrate emerging technologies with an evolving sentiment towards digital media.

Lean design methods
Things from the Future (card Game)


Adapting to user's lifestyle

People are not willing to go out of their way for alternate experiences that are inherently sedentary. Alternate TV experiences must be adapted to the existing lifestyle of the user.


TV as a tool to indulge in emotions

Users have trouble managing their emotional needs. They tailor content that aims to regulate their mood according to their needs. People also desire to lean into their mood or current emotional state.


Content creation is too much of an investment

There is an increasing need for relatable content created by viewers, but for the average TV, consumer content creation requires an overly large amount of investment.

Based on all the procured insights, we were able to reframe the problem space and narrow down our project goal to a practical design outcome. To design a TV experience that leverages contextual awareness to personalize viewing modalities using synthetic content.

Prototyping the Un-prototypeable

We envisioned this viewing experience to be an add-on to existing streaming platforms, called AdaptiveWatch.

To design and test for a technology that hasn't fully been developed yet, we had to get creative. By harnessing pre-made choose-your-own-adventure formatted streaming shows, we were able to Wizard-of-Oz the synthetic content and context-awareness aspect of the viewing experience by hiding the choices of the narrative via screen share and making the choices on behalf of the user.

Wizard-of-oz (user testing)

With each design sprint, we explored and fine-tuned the method and relative importance of certain TV viewing modalities and contexts.

What part of the context is relevant?
What is best to alter synthetically?
adaptivewatch system
designed solution
TV of the Future, with synthetic content

The resulting iterative cycles led us to design recommendations that we believed would be crucial for our clients to be aware of.

1. Creating adaptable content based on users’ expected emotion rather than their current one
2. Incorporating more stylistic, music, and modality based changes (less narrative changes) when users are experiencing a show for the first time
3. Prioritizing customization for every adaptation feature in the AdaptiveWatch system
4. Informing users of how the system is going to use their personal data and how to protect their privacy

adaptivewatch ui
live demo (unity)

We also demonstrated AdaptiveWatch's narrative and stylistic adaptation capabilities with a rendition of Little Red Riding Hood using Unity.

The technical maturity of synthetic content manipulation currently and in the near future would serve well in implementing the system along with our design recommendations. We believe it to be a crucial way to bring the concept of synthetic content into the world as a novel tv viewing experience.

However, with the concept becoming more mainstream, in the long term we envision a more comprehensive utilization of the technology as content rendering, viewing and sharing become more and more democratized, the barriers that have been placed around the flexibility of weaving content into our daily lives would lower tremendously.

Dealing with ambiguity

The early stages of this project were marked by overwhelming broadness and ambiguity. By taking great care in rationale and strategic creativity, we were able to navigate the project and come out ahead with valuable outcomes.

Take command of the project as soon as possible

It was important that we took charge of the project from the very beginning. Fail fast, and fail early. the more we learned we were able to come into decisions in a position of expertise which helped set ourselves up for success.

creative methods can bring clarity to any ambiguity

It was evident that generic design methodologies were not going to pull the same amount of weight as they would in other projects. Using lean design practice and creative problem solving, we were able to design our own methods.