A be­gin­ner’s primer to smart TVs

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - HOMES - By Caleb Caswell

JUST as phones with ac­cess to the In­ter­net al­low us to do more things with a fa­mil­iar de­vice, our tele­vi­sions also be­come pow­er­ful multi-taskers when they are con­nected to the In­ter­net.

Con­sumers haven’t been as quick to em­brace In­ter­net-en­abled TVs (com­monly known as smart TVs) as they did smart­phones. But sev­eral years af­ter first hit­ting the mar­ket, smart TVs now have lower prices and ex­tra fea­tures, and man­u­fac­tur­ers are striv­ing to make them the new stan­dard for chan­nel surf­ing. Here’s a be­gin­ner’s primer to smart TVs: What is a smart TV? A smart TV is a tele­vi­sion with built-in, one­touch ac­cess to a va­ri­ety of In­ter­net-based ser­vices, with­out the use of a com­puter. These fea­tures can in­clude video stream­ing (Net­flix, YouTube), so­cial me­dia, games and apps. Some smart TVs al­low smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity and dif­fer­ent de­grees of web brows­ing. The ex­act suite of fea­tures varies with each TV man­u­fac­turer be­cause there is no in­dus­try stan­dard yet for the term “smart TV.” When did they first come on the mar­ket? The first patent for smart TV tech­nol­ogy was put out in 1994 by a com­pany in France, but smart TVs didn’t get to the global mar­ket­place un­til 2009-2010. How have they im­proved? The pro­ces­sors of new smart TVs are faster and the in­ter­faces are more cus­tom­iz­a­ble. You can per­son­al­ize your tele­vi­sion with chan­nels you fre­quently watch and cre­ate short­cuts to your favourite fea­tures. More apps have been de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for tele­vi­sions, too. Ex­tra op­tions in new mod­els Built-in USB ports make it eas­ier than ever to upload pic­tures from your fam­ily va­ca­tion to the TV screen. Or you can show your pic­tures by link­ing your lap­top, phone or tablet to the TV wire­lessly. With voice and ges­ture recog­ni­tion, the TV will re­spond to au­dio com­mands, or you can con­trol an on­screen cur­sor with hand mo­tions the TV de­tects via its ex­ter­nal cam­era.

Face recog­ni­tion prompts your favourite op­tions to pop up when you sit in front of the TV. If you want to watch a show with a friend across the coun­try, you can Skype them on your TV set while watch­ing your show. Ex­tra gear needed In ad­di­tion to ev­ery­thing nec­es­sary for a nor­mal tele­vi­sion (in­clud­ing higher-end video/au­dio ca­bles), you should also get In­ter­net ca­bles, rec­om­mends Rick Van­guard, au­dio man­ager at a Vi­sions Elec­tron­ics store in Ed­mon­ton. While most smart TVs can hook up to your In­ter­net wire­lessly, he be­lieves they per­form best with a di­rect In­ter­net con­nec­tion, be­cause it’s eas­ier for a wire­less sig­nal to be in­ter­rupted.

De­gree of dif­fi­culty: No more dif­fi­cult than your reg­u­lar tele­vi­sion. The downside? Web brows­ing, nav­i­gat­ing on­screen menus and search­ing are still fairly clumsy tasks on smart TVs, crit­ics say.

Not many killer (must-have) apps have so far been de­vel­oped for smart TVs. Net­flix is a hit, but other than that …?

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