Fall 1992, Volume 1, Number 2

The disappearance of television?

Will television soon become invisible? It's already happening, says Stanford University researcher Byron Reeves. With high-definition pictures and much larger screens, "TV is moving toward virtual reality," said Reeves, a communications researcher speakin g October 2 at the "TV Learning", conference in Washington, D.C. "The heightened sense of being there produced by the new TV technology is more similar to natural experience. It's not that it's 'like' the real world. It 'is' the real world," he said.

Most americans no longer watch TV on 19-inch screens, said Reeves, noting that one-third of all TVs sold in the U.S. in 1990 were at least 27-inch models. Meanwhile, sales of TV's with 35-inch screens or larger are growing 100 percent annually. "New TV " offers a 16 x 9 ratio of horizontal to vertical, compared to a 4 x 3 "aspect" ratio for old TV. "New TV increases the amount of peripheral vision information while creating a more literal sense of motion." And the bigger more realistic images will requi re more viewer effort to process and may prove confusing, Reeves said.

"Our approach-avoidance reactions and other brain functions are not designed for new TV," said Reeves, citing TV experiments he has conducted on college students. The students reported highter states of arousal, more intense feeling, but decreased reca ll of the experience. "They liked the experience, but they couldn't remember much about it," Reeves said.

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