Fox News may tend to favor a political party that’s behind the times, but the forward thinking technology on view at the Fox News Deck at Faux News Headquarters in New York is getting a lot of notice (and snickers here and there) from tech heads.
Though it looks like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise with the crew of USS Fox News staring at big touch displays while gathering wire reports and keeping attuned to the Tweets of Fox Friends with the swipe of the finger (minus the lens flares), it also has quite a bit in common with the future-fiction of Steven Spielberg’s influential film Minority Report.
The ginormous 38-foot wall of video that Shepard Smith seamlessly interacts with, using a white wand controller that looks a lot like something designed by Nintendo, is manipulated using an advanced conference room collaboration program called Mezzanine. Created by Oblong Industries, the technology behind it, called G-Speak, is built upon a previous pixel movement technology called Infopresence, and if it’s very similar to the way Tom Cruise orchestrated his transparent displays that’s because Chief Scientist of Oblong, John Underkoffler, actually designed the UI for that movie.
Using Mezzanine, Smith or any talking head on the network, can gesture with the wand and be able to cull the most interesting news or social tidbit of the day from any device in the newsroom, but particularly those of the news gathering stations where the Big Area Touch Screens (called BATS for short… they’re actually 55″ Microsoft touchscreens reportedly powered by Windows 8) are in use, and display the content on the interactive video wall in the newsroom.
Fox News is making the big changes because consumers are changing the way they watch the news (and do almost everything nowadays) due to the increasing use of mobile smart devices. The “second screen” effect occurring in American living rooms, with people tapping away at Twitter, Facebook and Reddit as they watch, is changing the way many broadcast and cable TV programs are being developed.
Fox also recognizes that people are no longer bound by the old paradigm of scheduled programming, preferring to watch programs they like when they want and wherever they want… and they don’t want to see news stories they’ve looked at and analyzed themselves all day long at work or on the go. Fox seems to “get it” when it comes to the way Americans are using consumer technology, especially media devices that can easily steal away their gaze and focus.
Jay Wallace, Vice President of Fox News puts it this way:
Viewing patterns are changing, the way people consume news is changing, people aren’t so linear… they don’t sit down and watch TV at a certain hour, or stick with the same thing from show to show to show.
Though it may not lead to more truthful news from the conservative network, the high tech look of the newsroom and the immediacy of interacting with Fox News Fans, is sure to be copied by competitors such as CNN, MSNBC and the broadcast networks own news shows. Time will tell, but this does appear to be the way we’ll be getting our news for the foreseeable future.
Christian Hokenson is a writer based in Burbank, CA. He's interested in technology, movies, and home entertainment. If you're nice to him, he might buy you ice cream.