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

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TECH -

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.

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