Netflix working on technology that will allow viewers to determine show plots

Watching TV, no matter what channel you turn to, or going to the movies has been a passive occupation. You sit on the couch or the easy chair and watch as the plot unfolds, the story progresses, and things happen to the characters over which you have no control.

According to the UK Daily Mail, Netflix is working on technology that will change all that and make the television viewing experience more interactive. The television viewer, using a remote, will be able to decide plot twists. The show in question would film alternate story lines and make them available for the television viewer.

The Netflix project is not the first time someone has tried to make a show interactive. In the late 1960s, a Czech filmmaker named Radúz Činčera created an interactive movie called “Kinoautomat.” At various points in the film, a moderator appeared on the screen and invited the audience to vote between two alternate scenes. The film premiered at the Czech Pavilion at the 1967 Montreal World’s Fair and played the subsequent year at Hemisfair in San Antonio, Texas. Since digital film has not been invented yet, the interactive effect was achieved by switching the lens cap between two synchronized projectors with different versions of the movie. Ironically, “Kinoautomat,” a dark comedy, was banned by the Czech Communist Party in 1972. Interactive cinema did not take off because of the limited technology of the time.

With 21st century digital two-way technology, the possibilities are virtually endless. To select an established Netflix show, a viewer could prod Frank Underwood from “House of Cards” to have an opponent killed, blackmail him, or have him work out some kind of deal. In a romantic comedy, the viewer can decide which characters wind up with which other characters. The television viewer would be like a god manipulating people in a TV show universe, sometimes playing with alternate scenarios. The same show would be different for alternate viewings.

Netflix intends to test the interactive programming technology with a children’s show with an established character, along the lines of the “choose your adventure” books. If the interactive program has a positive response, the live-streaming network intends to roll it out for adult programming. Netflix has offered no word as to whether some of its established programming, such as “Orange is the New Black,” will come in interactive versions or whether it will create new shows tailored to the new technology.