Internet Connected TVs: The Idiot Box Turns On
Evolution of smart TV
The expectation of our televisions has changed; now we expect our team to do much more than just flipping through television channels. Consumers have been sampled from a wide range of online content available through televisions, allowing them to watch shows that may have been missed through apps like Plus7 and I-View, and to “rent” streaming from Video of the new version directly from the TV from applications such as Bigpond TV. Content that we traditionally only access on our PC is now available to us through our televisions, Blu-Ray players, and home theater systems, bridging the gap between the Internet and television.
One of the most attractive capabilities of smart TVs is the ability to stream movies over the Internet directly to our big screen. This has revolutionized the way many people access their movies, and the video store rental industry has started to really feel the pressure. In fact, Samsung just announced that it has signed a deal with the blockbuster to bring more movies to Samsung devices. The new Blockbuster streaming service is expected to land in the US and Europe in early 2012, and in Australia in September.
Bigpond Movies has been available on Samsung and LG TVs for a couple of years now, and this represents a collection of thousands of new and catalog titles streamed to your TV over the Internet. No more leaving the house to go to the video store or racking up late fees for that record you forgot to return.
Quickflix has been available on Sony TVs and Blu-Ray players before, and thanks to a recent agreement, Samsung is joining Sony to partner with the online DVD subscription service and develop an application that will allow Australian users to stream content. video to your Samsung smart TVs.
Sony also brings us its own streaming service, Video on Demand, offering late-release movies in the option of HD or a cheaper SD version, for those of us who don’t have the fastest internet speeds available or just tweak our wallets.
Consumers are also beginning to use services such as Telstra’s T-box and Optus’ similar FetchTV service, over traditional Foxtel and Austar cable or satellite connections. This has turned into a billion dollar industry in Australia, with nothing but a growth forecast in the near future.
There are also a plethora of multimedia devices available on the market, such as Apple TV, Boxee, and WD Live, so we now have the broadest choice of internet content available to watch on our television screens than ever before. Two of the most powerful media centers have emerged from Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox, with the latter also recently able to stream a wide selection of Foxtel channels, including movies and sports, over the Internet. They both have movie streaming services available as well.
Smart connectivity also opens up many options regarding television channels. Almost all major TV manufacturers have ABC’s popular I-View app preloaded in their menus. ABC iview is an update service that offers the best of ABC TV. You can watch your favorite shows in full screen whenever you want. Most shows are available to watch for 14 days with new shows added every day.
Another application always present in the arsenal of any Smart TV is PLUS7. Plus7, from Yahoo and Channel 7, offers video streaming of full episodes as seen on Seven, 7mate and other content partners. High-quality, full-screen videos are available for immediate streaming. New episodes are added every day and available for up to 28 days after the air. You can pause, fast-forward, and rewind shows, and they’re all available to watch on your TV in full screen. PLUS7 also includes an email reminder service so you don’t miss out on watching shows before they expire. There is also the option to share videos with friends via email and Facebook.
The BBC’s Iplayer is another video-on-demand service that provides access to most of the BBC’s massive television archives, with over 1000 hours available at launch and additional “hours” of footage being “added regularly” . Available content includes BBC News, Documentaries, Entertainment, Drama, Science and Nature, as well as Family and Kids, Music and Culture, and Comedy and Lifestyle. There is also a collection of the best BBC exports such as Dr Who, Little Britain, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Absolutely Fabulous and more.
Bigpond TV is available through LG Smart TVs and Samsung Connected TVs (with Internet on TV function). This is also the same service available through Telstra’s T-Box. Bigpond TV is a TV channel streaming service that brings us channels like AFL TV, NRL TV, Bigpond News, Bigpond Sport and Bigpond music and more. According to a study by the independent telecommunications research company Telsyte, one in ten subscription television services in Australia is offered over broadband, and they predict that by 2015, a third of all pay television services will be will be carried out through broadband networks.
This is an obvious concern for cable subscription companies Foxtel and Austar. Austar, in particular, has seen a big drop in fortune as it faces ever-increasing competition from cheaper Internet TV rivals like FetchTV, iiNet, and Internode, available from as low as $ 10 a month. With streamed Internet TV content available on smart TVs, such as recently released movies and TV shows, as well as many new free digital channels, compared to a cable subscription that starts at $ 45 a month plus possible fees for the box, consumers are voting with their wallets in droves.
Television giants Sony and Samsung will have music streaming services available on their smart TVs, and Samsung’s “Music Hub” will soon be launched to revolutionize the connection between our music and our devices like never before.
Samsung’s Music Hub gives us access to shared music without the need to download and transfer content from one device to another, and the service will be available on Samsung smart TVs, Samsung smart home cinemas, and smart Blu-rays in mid-December. The Music Center offers owners of Smart TV, Smart Home Theater and Smart Blu Ray players access to more than 10,000 music videos with the premium subscription.
The technology stores music playlists in a cloud, and music can be accessed from individual devices anywhere in Australia where an internet connection is available. An interesting feature is the “follow me” feature, which allows users to start listening to stored music through a mobile phone, before picking up the same playlist again when they get home through their TV.
Sony’s Music unlimited has been available for a couple of seasons, on Bravia phones, smart TVs, PlayStation 3, and Sony PCs and tablets. Over 10 million songs are available on demand, from indie artists to blockbuster superstars. Thousands of new songs are added weekly, and you can create and edit an unlimited number of playlists, as well as listen to any song you want as often as you like. There are Internet radio channels classified by genre, era, or mood. You can “Like” or “Dislike” tracks to customize channels to your personal taste, and you also have the ability to create new channels based on your favorite artists.
How smart will smart TVs be this year?
Viewers will be able to control their TV using facial recognition, in addition to voice and gesture controls, and move away from the traditional TV remote, similar to Microsoft’s XBox Kinect. LG and Samsung demonstrated voice and gesture controls on their next-gen TVs at CES 2012.
Samsung’s new 8 series TV, the ES8000, has built-in gesture recognition, through a camera that recognizes hand gestures that tell you to change channels, adjust the volume, move an on-screen cursor, and more .
Samsung and LG introduce voice control on select models in their 2012 lineup. Current LG Smart TV owners may be familiar with the Magic Motion Remote, which allows you to control a cursor on the screen in a similar way to how a Nintendo Wii controller. This year will see an update to the Magic Motion remote that now offers speech recognition functionality. A microphone on the remote sends your voice to your Smart TV, allowing the user to search the web, tweet, and post to Facebook, all in spoken words.
Panasonic has developed a new “flick” technology and they believe it will open up new ways of displaying content from our mobile devices with perfect picture quality on a Viera TV. This will revolutionize connectivity between our devices, allowing us to simply “move” content to remotely stream photos, videos, and web pages from Android or Apple products directly to the TV.
Another major feature coming is the ability to upgrade your TV with future functionality, without the need to buy a new TV. It will basically be in the form of an upgrade slot on the back of the TV and you can purchase upgrade “kits” as you need and become available.
Google has announced that LG, Sony, and Vizio will showcase Google TV devices at CES 2012, with Samsung coming out with Google TV later in the year, and Apple is also rumored to make TVs ranging from 37 “- 50”, and reported Features of iTV like Siri controls, iOS app support, AirPlay, iCloud support, and deep iTunes integration.
Sony has announced two Google TV add-on boxes in the form of a Blu-ray player and network media player. These will ship to America and Europe shortly, and other parts of the world can expect to be deployed afterward. Both boxes have a completely new remote control, with a backlit QWERTY keyboard with a touchpad. The remote control can also function as a universal remote control for other devices, while the Blu-ray player also supports voice search.
Death of the idiot box
The goal and vision of television manufacturers has gone far beyond offering us great picture quality. The ability to seamlessly link our media, whether on our phones, tablets or computers, with our home televisions has become of the utmost importance. A plethora of new content, in the form of applications overflowing with movies, television and music, is taking us away from the traditional way we consume such content, putting great pressure on industries such as traditional video and music stores and the cable / pay TV. companies like Foxtel and Austar. What we used to have to leave the house, now we have at our fingertips. The days of the missing remote are fast disappearing, in fact the days of using a remote are completely disappearing. The idiot box has finally been improved!