WappZapp; the revolution of interactive real-time television
The computational era we currently live in overwhelms us with the latest gadgetry, fidgets and means of communications. It is a tidal wave of new media micro-evolutions which we engulf ourselves in every day. Its innovational force moves so fast that it cannot be properly studied; by the time a new product comes on the market, it is already outdated. Strikingly, one of the pillars on which the foundation of new media rests, the medium of television, has only seen a very modest form of development since its commercial availability of the 1920s. Yes, we have seen the expansion to 400+ channels with the arrival of satellite in the 1960s and 1970s, which was a rather big step. Today, most European viewers have the “luxury” of digital TV, which is still analogue, only is the signal enhanced through broadband data for better tube quality and color intensity. You would reckon that through broadband, other information services would become available to complimentcomplement the existing possibilities. Yet all that has been produced by this merger of analogue and digital is that we are now able to look at teletext digitally, pause and play when a HD recorder is part of the package and load a broadcasting we have missed. Still, it seems odd that when we connect our TVs to the internet, that we are still limited to the programming of the networks. After all, the television is just a big screen.
This lack of innovational development over the years and the restricted viewing options, although all conditions are present to get so much more out of your TV, is what got Colin Ellis thinking. As a new business development manager currently employed at Reed Business his job is to actualize innovations. This young enthusiast is occupied daily in “defining the strategic direction for the online data solutions of the government and legal market and implementing a sustainable path for growth.” To Ellis, this abstract form of innovation however does not satisfy his lust for pragmatic actualization of true innovation. That is why besides his daily workings, he has been working for two years now on the revolution of zapping, an iPhone application which he calls WappZapp. Despite the fact that the actual launch of the application is still weeks away, rumors are already coming from all directions and they sounded extremely positive. It seems that it was time to meet the man who will supposedly change the way we have been watching TV for almost a century.
JR: Mr. Ellis, how did you come up with the idea of WappZapp?
CE: To be honest me and my co-founder Wienke Giezeman were frustrated with the restrictions of today’s television. What’s the use of having such an enormous screen in your room, attached to the internet, but not being able to decide what you would really like to watch? Now, we are mere zombies, staring and zapping, zapping and staring. We do this because this had been the way television has worked for so many centuries. You could say that to many, its predetermined character is also in a way the charm of TV. You don’t have to think about what you are going to watch. You just flip on the TV sit back and keep on pressing forward on the channel button until you find something that is about right.
Well I do not want to view something that is “about right.” Technology is to increase the convenience of life, it serves to serve us, not waste our time by making us zap relentlessly and endlessly, people have less and less time for something that time consuming. Also, people are becoming more and more aware of what specific things they would like to view. They may have heard something amusing about an episode of a certain series, an actuality show or something intriguing in a documentary of some kind. Unfortunately, this has already aired, but I want to watch it now, but not crawl behind a computer to got to sites like Hulu or Netflix, because a lot of us have been gazing at a computer screen already and want the comfort of the living room which is designed to be comfortable.
That’s why I decided to build something that suffices in all these needs, that something has become WappZapp
JR: So what is it exactly that WappZapp does?
CE: I am glad you ask. Wappzapp is an iPhone application that does it all for you. It allows you to search databases of networks who already offer their broadcastings online to the public to select the show of your choice. First, download the app to your iPhone or iPad, then go to the website www.wappzapp.com where you will find a code to fill in. What happens then is the magic of WappZapp. You are able to control any screen that has open access to the internet, whether it is your pc-screen our television screen from your iPhone or iPad without a significant delay. Your iPhone or iPad has become a remote control that enables anyone to scroll through the databases of networks by a slide across the screen. Easy as that.
This is the base of the Application. The second layer, dimension or whatever you want to call it, is what makes WappZapp extra special. WappZapp allows you to log in with your Facebook account. Consequently, a list of all posted youtube or vimeo videos are implemented. The same can be done with Twitter, which gives you an even broader range of viewable videos, because you are not restricted to your friends as anyone can follow anyone and thus retweet videos from anyone.
So what we have here is on the one hand a remote control app for interactive real-time television, but at the same time you could argue that WappZapp is a Web 2.0 application because you can see what your friends are watching and vice versa and not only communicate this to each other, but at an instant make good use of it without having to switch machines. So yeah, who needs still needs television?
JR: What distinguishes your application from other apps bearing a remote control feature as their trademark?
CE: Well what we have seen as a dominant trend lately are the Check-in apps, which I personally find quite boring. There is a huge amount of check-in apps, who all differ in the slightest possible way. If you have finally decided which one you want to waste a significant amount of time on, you have to waste even more time by creating a profile and when you are finished doing that, you still have zero friends or connections. That is why WappZapp uses existing Web 2.0 platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Furthermore, check-in apps are far too one dimensional; so what that you have checked-in in a bar, I don not know whether it is crowded in there or dead empty, or that the guy standing behind the bar is a friend of mine or not and thus whether I can get a discount or not. So it does not give the immediate satisfaction of being able to read something about it before I have to actually spent a lot of energy on something that may not be worthwhile. WappZapp gives you the luxury of information provided by a friend, or someone’s opinion that I value and based on that decide if I want to have a peak at it and evaluate on it at the same time. If I do not like it, I will just check out what another friend of mine is watching. If I like, well that’s cool. Than I can thank a friend of mine for sharing that video the next time I see him and talk about it. So it is also engaging instead of just triggering like the ordinary Check-in apps. WappZapp is therefore not just another variation on the existing Web 2.0 platforms because its emphasis lies on interactivity; between man as well as machine.
JR: How do you get your application to collaborate smoothly with the online sources it retrieves its data from?
CE: Well that is actually quite easy. We emit the entire video, so everything you see when you watch it from you browser you now see on your TV screen, advertisement included. In this way all parties benefit, the WappZapper but also the initial broadcaster who has put up the broadcasting up for streaming.
Of course I have to say that it is also thanks to Wienke Giezeman who is an excellent source writer, and has come up with the magical piece of code that allows the zapping from your phone or ipad to the TV. Combine that with the additional quality that he is also an interface genius that knows how to optimize the user experience. These two elements make for a smooth data retrieval and thus easy viewing.
JR: How long did it take you to develop the product, drawing table to downloadable?
CE: Almost two years to get a BETA version. We are currently looking for investors to realize its full potential, you know anyone?
JR: Ha, I will definitely recommend you. So what were the largest obstacles in the development?
CE: An idea in itself is nothing until people understand the depth and convenience of the application. Making people realize that there is a far more sophisticated way of checking out the shows that you like best, whenever you want to, that is the hardest part. But I believe that when people try the product, it will do its own promotional campaign because this is in fact the next big thing.
JR: Currently WappZapp is only available for iPhone and iPad. When can we expect the expansion towards other mobile platforms?
CE: Officially, we go live in a week, so from then on it is downloadable to the public. We will be paying close attention to all forms of user feedback in order to create the ideal user experience. After we have created the perfect app for iPhone and iPad, we will certainly expand to other mobile platforms.
JR: It seems rather strange that no other developer has thought about this idea. Is the mobile application market really that young that an application of this convenience has not been developed yet while so many television viewers struggle with slow cable providers and their even slower playback services?
CE: What surprises me is that television is still perceived as a different medium than the internet. This is not the case. Whether we play a video through the click of a button on our mouse, or press the remote control to engage in the viewing of a certain program, is exactly the same. However, people can not seem to shake loose of the dogma that the big screen in your living room is only a TV. No, it is a screen with which you can do anything you like, play games, watch holiday photos or decided on what exact show you want to view because thanks to WappZapp, we can stream anything we like, from our iPhone!
JR: There is quite a strong demand for application developers in today’s market. Some may label these IT individuals as nerds. You are yourself more of a creative thinker, an enthusiast. Do you believe the next era will be the revenge of these so-called “nerds,” that all these new technological developments will bring about new socio-economic relationships in the near future?
CE: Yes I do, but only the people that write programs / apps in a creative way. Innovators will always be innovators, whether their called the Wright brothers or Steve Job, some however are a bit eccentric, which some people may refer as nerdiness. If you talk about the nerds like we know them in the traditional way than I do believe that that programmer will keep this tradition alive. Only those who can think structurally, and realize what is really important will transcend the image of nerds. The real programmers will just keep on staring at the smallest new additional options, through which they lose touch with reality. They are subsumed in the world of technology and how it works. But by limiting options you also optimize the purpose the app serves. Also, people that edit videos will become major players in the future with the growing significance of videos.
Still, social relations are becoming more interactive. It is much like WappZapp, it connects you by bringing different media together. In future, and from my own experiences, I believe that society will become even more interactive than it already is.
JR: Finally, what can we expect from your future endeavors? Are you working on something we should know about?
CE: For now, me and my team are focusing on delivering the perfect WappZapp experience. That is the main goal at the moment. I do not know what ideas may pop-up, I do believe however that WappZapp will open a lot of doors to possible new innovations of which I will of course keep you posted.
JR: Great. Thank you so much for your time and good luck with the launch of the WappZapp application.
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