Trade Resources Industry Views Smart TVs That Viewers Are Common Theme in Offerings Being Rolled out by Manufacturers

Smart TVs That Viewers Are Common Theme in Offerings Being Rolled out by Manufacturers

JUST how smart can smart televisions be? Well, they're becoming smart enough to watch you as much as you watch them, they're smart enough to listen to what you say, and they can study and analyse your viewing habits.

Indeed, smart TVs that watch viewers are a common theme in offerings being rolled out by manufacturers this year. Voice control is in, as is being able to transfer viewing a program from a mobile device by touching devices together.

Smart TVs are sets with built-in computers that offer functionality an eon beyond program recording and playback and beyond connecting to your cable TV box or gaming consoles.

The key to a smart TV is its internet connectivity and ability to drag in information from the internet to complement what is on a TV screen. These days you can play games, watch YouTube, tweet, browse the web, access sports results and weather on your TV just as you would on a smartphone or tablet.

Apps on TVs also can display the lyrics of a song being played and pull in story information about movies being watched. The other important feature of smart TVs is IPTV, or internet protocol television. No longer are we limited to free-to-air and cable TV, we can watch TV and movies from anywhere in the world streamed across the net.

But these functions are rudimentary when it comes to 2013.

In the next month, two of the biggest innovators in smart TVs, Samsung and LG, will announce their Australian ranges and already we've seen offerings by the likes of Panasonic and Sony.

Samsung is rolling out TVs with fast processors that can monitor viewing habits for an entire family. As each member logs in, the TV can recommend programs they may want to see based on past viewing habits. The feature is called "s-recommendation". Samsung, in fact, has completely revamped its viewing interface and there are now five home screens covering personalised viewing, movies and TV, photos and video, social media, and apps.

Its TVs aggregate content from different sources such as free-to-air, movie providers and cable, to offer a seamless menu of upcoming content. No longer do you need to go to each provider separately.

The success of content integration in Australia, however, will depend on the breadth of sources and depth of content on offer. We will have to wait and see.

This year Samsung also has been displaying an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TV that can screen two shows at once. Using a rejigged form of 3-D TV glasses, two people can sit on the same loungeroom couch and watch two different broadcasts or movies. Sound is delivered through speakers in the 3-D glasses.

This is similar to a feature LG rolled out last year that lets two gamers watch separate full-screen views of the play on the same screen, at the same time, using modified 3-D glasses.

LG also has a fresh smart TV line-up with a feature called On Now that makes viewer recommendations based on trending broadcast programs and videos on demand.

It, too, aggregates content from local broadcasters and subscription programming services. Users can mirror content being screened on, say, a tablet using near field communication, or NFC, by holding it against one of LG's 3-D smart TVs. Users can remotely view TV content from anywhere across the internet using LG Cloud.

This year, LG's intuitive magic remote will have voice control technology that the manufacturer says can recognise the natural flow of language. So you can control your TV by talking to the remote. You also can voice-search for content across providers and attached external devices.

Having achieved success with its popular Bravia TV channels last year, Sony is proving to be the master of content offerings in the smart TV business as it arguably is in other areas.

Sony is busy creating ultra-high definition content for its consumer ultra-high definition video distribution service to be launched to enhance the sale of its ultra-high definition TVs.

Its 2013 range also features NFC connectivity. You touch, say, a phone playing music and a Sony speaker and the sound magically transfers to it. In the case of smart TVs, you touch a Sony device with the set's remote control to achieve the result.

Panasonic has enhanced its 2013 smart Viera line-up of LED and LCD TVs ranging from 24 inches (61cm) to 60 inches. Users can access favourite content on a personalised screen, use voice commands to control a TV while its "swipe and share" feature lets a viewer share photos, videos and web pages.

Updates to smart TVs are additional to another big move - the gradual rollout of huge ultra-high definition TVs that screen content at four times the resolution of high definition ones.

But with some prices north of $25,000 and a scarce supply of UHD content, their uptake by consumers will be relatively small, at this time.


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