TV Companion (2010-2012)

The TV Companion is an application aimed to address the societal issue of prolonged TV consumption with its related potential negative effects and aims to foster more reflective TV viewing among children and their parents.

The TV Companion device (see figure) is comprised of a wooden chasing and RFID tokens. Each RFID token corresponds to a certain amount of time for 'unllocking' the TV. The chasing, on the other hand, includes a RFID reader, micro-controller, audio module and universal TV remote control. It can be painted by the children as they wish in order to provide them with a sense of ownership.

In a typical usage scenario the user – a child - decides how long she/he wants to spend watching TV and picks a number of RFID chips according to this amount of time. The RFID chips or tokens correspond to different amounts of time (15, 30, 45 minutes). After switching on the TV Companion device, the user places the tokens upon the box. The user is then thanked by a voice for each token and the amount of time is read out aloud. The total amount of TV-minutes is cumulated from the single tokens. Time is counted back from the total time-amount to zero and counting starts immediately after a token has been read by the TV-Companion. When watching TV the user can estimate the remaining time by the color-coding of the LED on top of the device. Additional tokens, i.e. TV-minutes, can be brought in at any time. For instance, if the device is going to shut down soon, but the TV-broadcast hasn’t finished yet, the user can throw in another token with 15 minutes. Finally, when all time is up, the TV-Companion starts blinking red, andthe built-in infrared remote control turns off the TV.
In short the TV Companion is a device that helps the users keep track of their TV consumption in a playful way. However, as we will see when we later report the find- ings from our field studies with families who used the prototype, this does not happen in a rigorous and imposed fashion.

Demo video

Each token can only be used once (until it is 'recharged' by a parent). An audio message explains how many minutes of TV can now be watched. An invalid token (using the same token twice) is rejected.


The TV Companion concept was proposed by Dorothee Köstlin, and built by F.G. User studies were conducted and the paper (see below) was written up by Wolfgang Reitberger, Geraldine Fitzpatrick and F.G.

Related Links and Photos

  • Reitberger, W., Güldenpfennig, F., & Fitzpatrick, G. (2012). Persuasive technology considered harmful? An exploration of design concerns through the TV companion. Full Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 7th international conference on Persuasive Technology: design for health and safety, Linköping, Sweden (pp.239-250). ACM.