There are two ways to look at a TV screen dominating the wall of a living room: as a big rectangle overwhelming the room—or as an exciting blank canvas and opportunity to expand the definition of multimedia art.
Cameron Campbell is helping us rethink the role that technological hardware plays in our lives, and her background isn’t what you might expect. She’s owned a London art gallery, worked as an interior designer, and become a professional trend spotter. More recently, she spent a lot of time looking at TV screens.
“This is a very large piece of technology that usually takes up the most space on a wall,” Campbell said. “For me, it was important to really think of an artful experience.”
Bringing art to the TV is part of why Campbell joined Amazon over six years ago as a principal design strategist. She and her fellow designers and curators helped create numerous features for Amazon’s new Fire TV Omni QLED Series. The TV comes with Alexa, meaning you can control the TV by simply talking to it, and a new feature called Adaptive Brightness allows the TV to understand the lighting in a room and automatically adjust its screen to maintain optimal picture.
Campbell and her colleagues focused on ways to use that screen to add beauty to your living room. For example, the new Fire TV Ambient Experience features allows the TV to change from a blank rectangle on the wall to an intelligent, interactive canvas. When sensors in the TV detect presence in the room, the TV turns on and can display useful information through custom widgets, such as calendars and news. The TV can also add ambient beauty to your living room with, you guessed it, art.
The team curated and created more than 1,500 works of art, including paintings, fine art landscape photography, and motion visuals. The work is from artists around the world, designers at Amazon, and collections held by the National Gallery of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.
All of the art can be displayed on the Fire TV Omni QLED Series 65-inch and 75-inch screens. And because the TV comes with Alexa, you can ask questions about the art and artists being displayed. Just say, “Alexa, tell me more about this photo” or “Alexa, who painted this?” The interaction can be educating.
“In my house, we’ve learned a lot about the impressionist pieces from The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.,” said Daniel Rausch, vice president of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services.
A new kind of wall art
Displaying a static or slow-moving, high-definition image on a large screen is no simple task. The design team thoroughly tested the art feature—called Ambient Art—in their own homes to ensure they were building an experience that was truly valuable, not distracting.
Chris Seifert, who helped drive the design of Ambient Art’s motion visuals, said elevating the image from a screen saver to an art rendition meant closely managing the motion and color of the display. The quality of the colors also mattered.
“Things that feel good on a small screen for a short amount of time may not feel good on a large screen in a dark room,” Seifert said.
“It should feel calming,” added Gretchen Nash, a creative designer at Amazon who focuses on user experiences with Amazon’s Echo and the Fire TV. “You want this to feel like a part of someone's home, their safe space, their sanctuary. That’s why it's very different, designing for devices that are on in the background.”
The team also had to account for the difference between art and other digital pictures, like those from a smartphone. “There's usually a lot more depth, there's a lot more composition, there are shadows involved because as humans, you know, our eyes need to travel through art, and that helps us contemplate the world from a new perspective,” Campbell said.
Nash also noted that the team sought out a range of artists from around the world. “We wanted to really highlight the rich cultivation of diverse work happening in the art world,” she said.
The TV derives its smarts from ambient intelligence, the idea that digital systems, services, and devices like TVs can work together in the background on our behalf—and even foresee our needs.
“We’ve been buying so-called smart TVs for decades, but they’re really not all that smart,” said Rausch. “The Fire TV Omni QLED series reimagines what customers can expect from a smart TV.”
Ambient Art is just the beginning.
Learn more about how Alexa and other smart features are built-in to the new Fire TV.