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Are You Ready for Smart Television?

Consumer Electronics Show predicts yes

I admit it.  Despite my fondness for Renaissance sculpture, Johann Sebastian Bach’s music, and Gothic architecture, there’s an entirely different set of interests lurking. Televised football games, contests for ballroom dancing, and of course some reality shows too weird to mention snag my time and attention. I suspect I’m not alone.

While the content of television shows arguably isn’t improving, the devices we use to watch them are changing.  Last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas highlighted new television technologies, which have become viable options for use in our homes. 

Television manufacturers are on the lookout for ways to increase sales. New features could boost the number of units sold and prices. 3D technology has not turned out to be a must-have feature for the majority of consumers. Perhaps Internet-connected TVs, known as smart TVs, will do the trick.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) conducted a survey from Sept. 19 to 25, 2011, to discover in part how consumers access video and audio in their homes. CEA reported their findings in “Connecting the Dots Between Consumers, Content and Consumer Electronics in the Home.” Fifty-three percent of online U.S. adults stream or download video.  

What does the latest crop of televisions offer?

  • Bigger is often better. LG and Samsung showcased large screens in the range of 55 to 84 inches of display space.
  • Well big is nice, but not if the image is blurry.  Sony, JVC, and Toshiba are pushing forward with 4K projection for home devices. 4K is four times the resolution of full high definition (HD).
  • Greater image clarity also comes from higher contrast. LG and Samsung introduced new large organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. These screens are also more energy efficient than previous models.

Change isn’t just happening with screens. Remote controls are getting an upgrade too. Nuance Communications introduced changing channels or searching for shows by talking to the television.  Nuance Communications is known for the Siri voice-recognition technology used on Apple’s iPhone 4S. Samsung added a camera sensor similar to that of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Kinect device to allow a viewer’s physical motion to affect the television.

The merging of computers, game systems, and television technologies is just beginning.  LG uses a variation of the Android operating system, which is also used in Google TV. However, Google TV hasn’t been a big success thus far. Apple TV’s current expected release is by the end of 2012. If its introduction is similar to the impact of the iPod, iPhone or iPad, it will alter how we use and think about television.

The technology exists and is available for smart televisions. We are used to watching shows and movies on those screens.  We are entranced by the big screens with sharp images and crystal clear sound. But are we ready or interested in using those screens like a huge phone or tablet to check in on our social networks (Patch on Facebook and Twitter, for example), run our apps (get the Patch App!), and search Google or Bing or Wikipedia?  

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