Can I Watch TV During Dinner Yet?

Why the future of AI television makes me miss my old-school family time.

PeopleImages/ Getty Images
PeopleImages/ Getty Images

Watching an episode of The Office while eating sushi on the couch in my apartment is my little rebellion against the principal rule of my childhood: no TV during dinner. My parents weren’t particularly strict, but this practice was non-negotiable. In our home, television wasn’t inevitable background noise. Rather, it was a privilege that came after family dinner was over and our homework was complete.

A new report in Science revealed that with advances in AI technology, we will soon be able to turn YouTube videos into 3D reconstructions, allowing us to watch our favorite sports games and TV shows on our own dining room tables.

The technology behind these 3D holograms are based on a “convolutional neural network.” Tested on the soccer video game “FIFA,” the researchers analyzed 12,000 2D images of players, and paired the video with the corresponding 3D data from the game. This will make the future television images appear in 3D on any surface. (Picture a holographic soccer game on top of your coffee table.)

Artificial Intelligence may be changing the future of television-watching, but as someone who grew up with a distinct separation television time and dinner time, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable about the implications of this new technology. Maybe it’s the nostalgic nineties kid in me, but sitting down with my family for dinner without distractions was a building block of my youth. If kids are soon able to watch their shows on the table in front of them, what happens to family time, especially when it’s already at more of a premium than ever before?

The technological capability isn’t finalized yet, and the product is still glitchy, but researchers believe that when it comes to reconstructing sports in 3D, the official launch will just depend on figuring out the number of cameras that successfully record every angle of the game. The rest of TV shows and movies will likely follow, and soon enough, television will be fully embedded into the American home.

We often talk about the values of unplugging and setting boundaries with technology, and I think we need to consider our televisions in that conversation, too. Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for cool new technology, but eventually we have to ask ourselves: How do we continue to prioritize family time?

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