The Television set has been a fixture in most American homes for quite a number of years now. With an unprecedented amount of media available to the end user today, the chances are that the home TV, or at least the home large screen monitor, is going to be a living area staple for some time to come.
Just recently the TV bade goodbye to broadcasted analog signals and moved into the digital realm. But the transformation of the family entertainment hub has not stopped at just a beautiful High Definition picture and digital surround sound.
In fact, the transformation is still taking place, and the International Consumer Electronics Show this year proves that it is not showing any signs of slowing down.
So, what exactly can we begin to expect from the HDTV of the near future? While predicting the future market cannot be done with absolute certainty, there are nonetheless some things that are bursting at the seams to be in a living room near you.
Built In Video Phones
The technology for having a videophone built into a TV is definitely here, and this year’s CES has manufacturers laying the details on the line. The leader for bringing the technology to the masses appears to be Skype, and they are flaunting deals with both LG and Panasonic. According to Peter Reiner, Senior Vice President, LG Electronics USA:
“Embedding the Skype software in our broadband HDTVs enriches the user experience, allowing consumers to connect with family and friends from the comfort of their family room without a PC”
The quote is apparently one they believe in, and there will be no less than 26 LG plasma, LED and LCD TVs planned for 2010 that come with Skype. The features include:
- Free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls to other Skype users
- Calls to landline or mobile phones at Skype’s low rates
- The option to receive inbound calls via a user’s online Skype number
- Skype voicemail, if it is set up
- Being invited to participate in voice conference calls with up to 24 other parties
Apparently Skype is more than happy with the arrangement as well, as Josh Silverman, CEO of Skype, reports:
“We know that Skype users are increasingly interested in conducting video calls away from their computers. With Skype, consumers of LG’s NetCast HDTVs will now be able to participate in rich, real-time video conversations from the comfort of their couch. A hallmark of Skype is the ability to bring people together. Together with LG, we have created an all new user experience with amazing video quality and audio clarity.”
As mentioned, Panasonic has made deals with Skype as well. Their line of 2010 VIERA CAST HDTVs, planned to launch this spring, will be Skype enabled offering the same range of features. According to Bob Perry, Vice President, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company:
“The addition of Skype to our VIERA CAST offerings truly takes HDTV connectivity to a whole new level. VIERA CAST was created to offer Panasonic VIERA® HDTV owners a new level of entertainment by giving them access to some of the most popular content-driven web sites. Panasonic VIERA HDTV owners can now not only share photos and videos online; with Skype they can also talk to family and friends from the comfort of their living room.”
Home 3D Cinema
2010 just might be the year that we see 3D truly make it to the living room. The technology that makes it feasible is SENSIO® 3D, which allows 3D content to be streamed over the existing 2D infrastructure. It was revealed today that the VIZIO XVT Pro Full HD3D TVs incorporate the technology, and it supports a full 1080p image to each eye.
The technology uses special active-shutter glasses (bought separately, naturally) that connect to the HDTV via bluetooth. Having the support built into the HDTV allows DVD, Blu-ray, streaming, and other SENSIO encoded sources to be enjoyed in full 3D. According to Nicholas Routhier, President and Chief Executive Officer of SENSIO Technologies,
“We are pleased to be working closely with VIZIO and be a part of the creation of a substantial install-base of consumers ready to watch 3D movies, live concerts, and sporting events from the comfort of their home.”
Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc. (MDEA) is also racing to be the provider of 3D to the home. They will offer the Mitsubishi 3DC-1000 3D adapter in Fall of 2010, which allows the Mitsubishi 3D-ready Home Theater TV to display dynamic content from a variety of sources. As with other solutions, they also incorporate stereoscopic glasses to provide for the 3D effect.
David Naranjo, director of product development, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, probably sums up what I would consider to be the piece of news that 3D fans have been wanting to hear from an official source for quite a while,
“We expect 2010 to be the year that 3D finally achieves mass consumer adoption, and are working to continue to pioneer innovation to make it easier than ever for consumers to experience this next big step in home entertainment.”
When it comes to connecting the home TV to its signal, there has been a lot of changes in a relatively short number of years. The RF cable gave way to video, then S-Video, on to Component Video, DVI, and finally HDMI. But it really is a shame to have that big, beautiful flat screen centered on the wall and have it spoiled by large cables piping in the signals.
Enter Wireless HDMI. The VIZIO XVT HDTVs incorporate a wireless HDMI receiver to not only make the setup a bit more designer friendly, it also makes it a great deal more flexible. You can add additional units, such as blu-ray players and media servers, by simply adding a VIZIO XVT Pro Wireless HDMI Adapter. Each adapter supports up four HDMI sources, and provides a full 1080p resolution connection.
SiBEAM provides the technology behind the wireless HDMI, and it reads like a tech geek’s wish list. The SiBEAM OmniLink60 incorporates a 60 GHz carrier to avoid any kind of interference from existing electronics, and it can dynamically steer content to the specified receiver through its adaptive beam-forming system. SiBeam boasts (and rightfully so) an ability to transmit A/V at over 4 Gbps wirelessly.
Soon will be gone the days of infrared based remotes. Taking their place will be remotes that work via bluetooth. This means that the remote will work regardless of the direction it is facing, and it will work through obstacles and even walls if the distance is close enough. The technology is already in use in the living room, since the Wii game console incorporates a bluetooth connection for their Wiimotes.
And I do have to say, I have been expecting this for some time now. The days of studying the remote for a few seconds and then pointing it at the TV (often to be repeated) is almost behind us – I hope.
Of course, as our media choices grow, you can expect the Bluetooth TV Remote to more closely resemble small keyboards than a numeric keypad. Which makes it all the more important to not have to point it at the screen between operations.
Chances are that a lot of people reading this are already getting a lot of their viewing content from the web. Currently I often stream Netflix movies through an Xbox 360, and it works just fine. Other IP enabled set top boxes stream a variety of online and on-demand content to today’s TVs.
But new HDTVs, such as the XVT Pro sets and others, already have the mechanics for streaming built into the unit itself. To watch your favorite online media it only requires the addition of either a wireless or wired internet connection.
The move to online video should not come as a surprise to anyone, and the cable companies are no doubt taking note. According to Larry Gerbrant, Principal of Media Valuation Partners, in 2008 40.5% of people watched online videos. The move from the computer to the family HDTV can only be hastened out of convenience as the hardware presents itself.
As we see news of HDTV technology being released from this year’s 2010 CES, it seems to verify that tomorrow’s standards may be beyond what we have today. But at least it does appear that a wireless flat screen having the ability to show 3D movies at 1080p resolution and streaming from the web is certainly within expectations quite soon.
As the standards are better defined, one can expect that the price point will drop as consumer acceptance is expanded. And that sounds pretty good to me.