A beginner’s primer to smart TVs
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 …?