Smart TVs getting smarter
The latest televisions can talk to you, recognise your face and tell you what your friends are watching. Rod Chester and Jennifer Dudley- Nicholson report
THE new breed of smart TVs is 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 you might want to watch either from your previous viewing habits or what your social- networking contacts are watching.
Australians are falling in love with smart TVs, with the penetration in Australia growing by a third last year.
Philip Newton, vice- president of Consumer Electronics for Samsung Australia, said smart TVs account for 75 per cent Samsung’s 2013 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 said.
Samsung unveiled its new smart TV range last week, with the main attraction being the S9, a UHD TV that will be in Australian stores next month, with a $ 40,000 price tag.
If you’re willing to pay the price for the 4K TV, a white- gloved Samsung installer comes to your house and talks you through how to use it.
You also get the Smart Evolution Kit thrown in, which means the TV’s software is upgraded every year.
While the S9’ s price puts it out of reach for most, 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.
While Samsung’s 2013 smart TV F8000 range offers improvements in video quality and usability, there was as much emphasis at the launch on what you’ll watch on your Smart TV as there was 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.
Sports lovers can get a combination of Fox Sports, Livesports. com and ESPN3 Samsung, which Mr Newton said provided 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.
Samsung is not the only TV manufacturer to recently show its hand on a vision of the smart TVs of the future.
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 built- in camera to scan the audience for recognisable faces.
Viewers who have registered their photo with the TV can then 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 was a simple way to demonstrate the potential of adding a camera, apps and internet connectivity to the idiot box, and could convince more new TV buyers to use all its smart features.
“Last year we introduced some great new features to our smart TVs and this year we’ve made ‘ smart’ easy,” Mr Pearce says.
“We think customisation is pretty important in a device that’s generally shared among a household.”
Other smart TV features for Panasonic’s forthcoming LED LCD and plasma TVs include Voice Interaction, which 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.”
NOT FOR EVERYONE: Samsung’s S9 will hit Aussie stores in May with a whopping $ 40,000 price tag; right, Samsung’s Smart Hub, where users can download apps.