Cognition and Technologies

Cognition and Technologies 2018

Master of Science: Human-Computer Interaction Design

Module: Cognition and Technologies

Project: Create a novel design idea for watching movies and TV remotely together


For this project, I wanted to explore and come up with a novel design idea for watching movies and TV with other people remotely. The design includes a TV application and a mobile application that will work together, both synchronous and asynchronous, in order to create a novel experience.

The main functions of the design:

  1. To plan a film-watching session with one or several friends
  2. To synchronize the movie so it will play and pause at the same time for everyone
  3. To stay connected via a mobile application through either chat, audio call or video call

The goal of the design is to re-create a real-life situation and make it a meaningful experience for the users.


Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication

This design combines both synchronous and asynchronous communication. It allows for the users to send each other requests and make plans in a calendar asynchronous, while they are also able to use the chat and the video playing system synchronously. In the article “Exploring asynchronous and synchronous tool use in online courses”, Oztok et al. (2013) argue that synchronous and asynchronous communication tools should not be considered in isolation, but rather how they can supplement each other. This is the approach I used for this design. Some of the elements of the design allow the users to interact asynchronously, while some of the design elements will require synchronous communication.

Mental Model

In regard to mental models (Nielsen, 2011), this design will feature two main elements that are already familiar to the users: chat on a smartphone and streaming via a TV. The chat is an imitation of chatting to your friends in real-life and streaming on your TV is a mimic of looking through a library and choosing entertainment. Both are familiar concepts; the novelty will be in combining the two.

Mobile and Context-Aware Design

It is also relevant to think of mobile and context-aware design when designing a mobile application. The term “second screen” has become more relevant as the mobile inhabit more functionalities than ever and is often used as a supplement (or distraction) when watching TV. According to Poltrack (2013), the first screen is a TV, while the second screen must fit these criteria: connectivity, app functionality and a screen. Technically a laptop can also serve as a second screen, but tablets and smartphones are more commonly used. A big usage of the second screen is when watching sports. You can simultaneously check what other people are commenting or watch highlights as you are watching the match itself. Social media is a big part of the second screen trend. You are not only watching content on the TV, but you are also discussing the content with friends or followers.

The second screen will play a significant role in this design and the concept is created around having a first screen and a second screen working together. The context is an important aspect of mobile design. The applications will be designed so your main focus will be on the first screen (TV) and the second screen (smartphone) will work as a supplement where you connect with friends through chats, audio calls or video calls.

Already Existing Designs:

As mentioned in the proposal there are several websites that possess different design approaches to watching movies with friends remotely. I will go through them briefly, just to get an overview of already existing design, so I can make sure that my ideas are novel and bring about some new features.

Here are some of the already existing design applications:


With Netflix Party, you have to install a Google Chrome Extension and watch the films through the Google Chrome browser. This limits the viewing experience to the only watch using a computer. The Gaze website also relies on you watching on a computer, but it includes the options of a chat and synchronized viewing, something I will include in my design as well. Rabbit focuses more on browsing the web and watching things online together through a phone or a tablet. Synaptop is also a computer-based website that allows you to watch films together or listen to music together, it is available for all web browsers and is not just limited to one.

There are a lot of features these websites inhabit that is also included in my design. But the novelty of my design is to combine a TV application and a mobile application in order to create a movie-watching experience with your friends.


For this section I will go into greater detail regarding the design and I will focus on synchronous and asynchronous communication. These design features are the final design proposal for this project. The features are based on the methodologies mentioned above. I have also created a user journey in order to showcase how the design could be used.


This design with feature synchronous communication where the users will be able to communicate through audio, video or chat while watching a film at the same time. The film display will be synchronised, and the users will be able to pause and play at the same time.


The asynchronous aspects of the design will be to schedule film- viewing dates with your friends. You can send requests for a film- viewing date and your friend can accept the request. It will be added to the calendar and they can plan multiple film- viewing dates weeks or even months ahead.

Design features:
  • Send film- viewing date request (asynchronous)
  • Accept film- viewing date request (asynchronous)
  • Schedule in a calendar (asynchronous)
  • Chat (synchronous or asynchronous)
  • Audio call (synchronous)
  • Video call (synchronous)
  • Play film (synchronous)
  • Pause film (synchronous)
  • Give rating (synchronous or asynchronous)


User journey:

Here is a user journey that illustrates how the application could potentially be used.

  • Two users: Lisa and Christina
  • Lisa lives in London and Christina lives in Birmingham
  • They used to live close to each other in Birmingham and would have film- viewing dates all the time
  • They still want to watch films together even though they do not live in the same city anymore
  • At 16:00 Lisa sends a film- viewing request to Christina to watch Fargo at 20:00 (asynchronous)
  • At 16:30 Christina sees this request and accepts (asynchronous)
  • The film- viewing date is scheduled in their respective calendar in the application (asynchronous)
  • At 19:30 both of them receives a notification: “30 minutes until your film- date with Lisa/Christina”
  • At 20:00 Both of them opens the app on their phone and the TV
  • They click the name of the other and clicks “connect” (synchronous)
  • Mobile: a chat appears, and they are able to chat with each other (synchronous)
  • They have the option of connecting through either audio or audio and video
  • Lisa sends a request to connect through audio and video (synchronous)
  • Christina accepts (synchronous)
  • They talk about the film and their expectations (synchronous)
  • They both like the Coen- brothers, but neither of them has seen Fargo before
  • Lisa clicks “connect” on Christina’s name on the TV app (synchronous)
  • Christina accepts the connection (synchronous)
  • Lisa finds the film and clicks play (synchronous)
  • The film starts on both of their TV screens (synchronous)
  • Christina wants to get a snack midway through the film
  • She clicks “pause” and the film pauses on both screens (synchronous)
  • They resume the film (synchronous)
  • They make comments to each other throughout the film (synchronous)
  • After the film ends they have a discussion about the film (synchronous)
  • The application asks them to rate the film
  • Lisa rates it 4,5 out of 5 stars (synchronous)
  • Christina rates it 5 out of 5 stars (synchronous)
  • The film is logged under “watched” and their star ratings are saved
  • The application will show a list of the films the two of them have watched together
  • They look at the list and decide what they want to re-watch the first Lord of the Rings film soon
  • Lisa sends a request to schedule it for next Friday at 20:00 (asynchronous)
  • Christina accepts the request (asynchronous)
  • The date appears in both of their calendars (asynchronous)

The novelty of this project is having a TV application that is connected to a mobile application. As mentioned earlier, other attempts at synchronising remote film- watching has been through a computer. There is a significant increase of TV sets that are connected to the internet, which would imply that more people are using their TV’s to stream content instead of connecting through their laptops (Statista, 2018). That is why I wanted to focus this design on a TV application synchronised with a mobile application. While watching TV there is a large number of people using a “second-screen” while watching TV (Poltrack, 2012). Using the “second-screen” habit to an advantage, it seemed relevant to design a system that could implement the mobile while watching something on TV, while at the same time being careful that the mobile application doesn’t distract too much from the TV- watching.

This project has taken a real-life scenario and mimics it in order to re-create the experience. With the world being connected it should not be difficult to re-create the film- viewing dates you are used to having with your friends, even if you live far apart. Watching films and TV can be a social experience and this application would support that notion. People who move away from each other or for other reasons are not able to be together in the same space can still connect in this way and be able to imitate a real-life experience.