Fox News unveiled its new “Fox News Deck,” a revamped newsroom studio in New York City that uses giant touchscreen computers, electronic tablet desktops and other connected technology in an effort to attract computer- and social media-savvy viewers.
The face of the project is anchor Shepard Smith, who used a video to show off 10 55in touchscreens costing $7100 each and sold by Microsoft. Last year, Microsoft acquired Perceptive Pixel, the manufacturer of the giant touchscreens. In what might be the latest version of product placement, the screens will be powered by Microsoft Windows software.
Each screen is essentially an HDTV equipped with a “projected capacitive” multitouch sensor. Any monitor can be switched on the air on a moment’s notice. The screens are powered by Windows 8 and can also be navigated along a 38ft-long video wall using an “Active Stylus,” which is essentially a wireless remote control.
Fox said it took a month to refurbish the new studio, which was designed to reflect audience changes that now include a major trend toward viewing on data-enabled smartphones and electronic tablets.
The Microsoft displays have a 1920 x 1080 (2 megapixel) resolution, the same as a standard HDTV. That’s a fraction the resolution of Apple’s 15in Retina Display MacBook Pro (2880 x 1800, or over 5 megapixels) or Apple’s iPad (2048 x 1536 or 3.1 megapixels). Fox calls the touchscreen’s “BATs,” for “big area touchscreens.”
The multitouch displays that Microsoft bought last summer also come in an 82in version at the same resolution. They don’t use the same technology as Microsoft’s original “Surface” product that debuted shortly after the iPhone in 2007. That is now marketed as PixelSense and still sold by Samsung as the SUR40.
Critics noted that Apple’s iPad — the target of the Fox studio project — can be used by viewers to review Twitter themselves, without Fox News reviewing the same information on flashy, oversized desktops running at limited resolution.
Fox said the new studio is revolutionary, allowing journalists — the network calls them “information specialists” — to stand in front of the massive displays devoted to showing different incoming tweets and comment on their relevance to the day's news coverage.
“The way people consume news is changing,” said Jay Wallace, vice president of news at Fox. “People aren’t so linear. They don’t sit down and watch TV at a certain hour. You know, and stick with the same thing from show to show to show.”
Smith, talking directly to Apple iPad and iPhone users in the video, said “just like you, we get our news across multiple platforms. And this is the place where viewers can watch us sort it all out as it happens.”
Peter Blangiforti, vice president of graphics engineering at Fox, said the company has introduced some very new technologies, some of which have never been used in a live television production before. “We are just real excited about showing it off,” he said.