TV no longer the id­iot box

Smart TVS can talk and even recog­nise your face, write Rod Ch­ester and Jen­nifer Dud­ley-ni­chol­son

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Gadgets -

THE new breed of smart TVs are get­ting smarter. Ask your new Sam­sung smart TV what’s on tonight and it will talk right back at you, com­plete with Aus­tralian ac­cent. Or don’t even bother to ask, be­cause it can rec­om­mend shows that you might want to watch ei­ther from your pre­vi­ous view­ing habits or what your so­cial net­work­ing con­tacts are view­ing.

Aus­tralians are fall­ing in love with smart TVs, with the pen­e­tra­tion in Aus­tralia grow­ing by a third last year.

Philip New­ton, vi­cepres­i­dent of Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics for Sam­sung Aus­tralia, says the smart TVs ac­count for 75 per cent of the 2013 Sam­sung models, up from a split of about 50-50 last year.

‘‘ I see a day prob­a­bly in the next 24 months that we won’t have a non-smart prod­uct," Mr New­ton says.

Sam­sung un­veiled its new smart TV range last week, with the main at­trac­tion be­ing the S9, a Ul­tra HD TV that will be in Aus­tralian stores next month with a $40,000 price tag.

Aus­tralians are fall­ing in love with smart TVs

If you’re will­ing to pay for the 4K TV, a Sam­sung in­staller comes to your house and talks you through how to use it. You also get the Smart Evo­lu­tion Kit, which means the TV’s soft­ware is up­graded ev­ery year.

While the S9 is out of the price range of most peo­ple, the Smart Evo­lu­tion Kit is also avail­able for a range of 2012 Sam­sung smart TV models, pro­vid­ing a faster chip, an up­dated Smart Hub user in­ter­face and the lat­est pic­ture dis­play soft­ware.

Sam­sung’s 2013 smart TV F8000 range of­fers im­prove­ments in video qual­ity and us­abil­ity, but there was as much em­pha­sis at the launch on what you’ll watch on your smart TV as on the sets them­selves.

Sam­sung smart TVs can stream catch-up con­tent from SBS, ABC, Ya­hoo7 and Chan­nel 10 as well as Foxtel and Quick­flix con­tent through two of the more than 3000 apps avail­able to down­load to the smart TVs.

Sports lovers can get a com­bi­na­tion of Fox Sports, Lives­ports.com and ESPN3 Sam­sung, which Mr New­ton says pro­vides about 90 per cent of all sports tele­vised world­wide. By mid-year, Sam­sung plans to add PVR func­tions to its pop­u­lar Foxtel app, so peo­ple will be able to pause, rewind and fast for­ward. It will also launch a Foxtel Go app for Sam­sung smart­phones and tablets.

Pana­sonic’s new­est tele­vi­sion tech­nol­ogy will also fo­cus on in­ter­ac­tive features, with TVs that watch and recog­nise their view­ers.

The fea­ture, part of My Home Screen in its Viera smart TV range, will use a builtin cam­era to scan the au­di­ence for recog­nis­able faces.

View­ers who reg­is­ter their photo with the TV can switch to the smart TV home­screen cus­tomised with their favourite apps, in­clud­ing catch-up TV ser­vices, so­cial net­works, clock and weather feeds.

Pana­sonic Viera group mar­ket­ing man­ager Matt Pearce says the face-recog­ni­tion fea­ture is a sim­ple way to demon­strate the po­ten­tial of adding a cam­era, apps and in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity to the id­iot box.

‘‘ Last year, we in­tro­duced some great new features to our smart TVs and this year we’ve made ‘ smart’ easy,’’ he says.

Other smart TV features for Pana­sonic’s forth­com­ing LED LCD and plasma TVs in­clude voice in­ter­ac­tion that lets users search the web by speak­ing into the re­mote con­trol, and a Swipe and Share 2.0 fea­ture and ac­com­pa­ny­ing Ap­ple and Google apps that let users send pho­tos and videos to the big screen from mo­bile de­vices.

Pana­sonic won’t launch OLED or 4K TV screens in Aus­tralia this year, how­ever, with Pearce say­ing such a launch could con­fuse cus­tomers. ‘‘ 4K is great, but where is the con­tent?’’ he says. ‘‘ It is the fate of our in­dus­try at stake, but we can’t have an ap­proach that leaves our cus­tomers won­der­ing.’’

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