LAS VEGAS – Smart TV is turning out to be a slow learner, through no fault of its own.
As evidenced at CES here on Monday (Jan. 7), leading TV makers like LG, Samsung and Panasonic are scrambling to redefine smart TV, adding their own twist to the smart TV platform, with features ranging from magic remote and personalization to speech recognition.
Many of these new developments are simultaneously fascinating and confusing.
The original motivation behind smart TV was that it promised universal content search for TV viewing across Internet, TV broadcast, video-on-demand streaming and social media. Ed Border, senior analyst for TV systems research at IHS, said “the basic need for an environment where consumers can browse all the linear TV and Internet content, and choose one they want to watch” still exists, and “Google, Samsung, LG, Panasonic and others are fighting for this.”
The power of smart TV search “will lie in the content deals and aggregation that platforms can achieve,” explained Border. At a time when smart TV remains fragmented, no one has come up with a smart TV with complete control over the growing amount of content, apps and services.
Rather than drawing more attention to its incomplete video content search capability, smart TV advocates are now shifting focus to peripheral matters like user interfaces.
LG's magic remote
LG Electronics CTO Scott Ahn, for example, observed: “Smart TVs have many smart features. But the way consumers interact with smart TV isn’t smart.” LG's solution is a “magic remote” for its proprietary smart TV. The remote “lets consumers write the numbers to change channels, allows users to speak to the remote instead of a TV, or lets users to do one finger gesture, instead of strenuous arm gestures,” Ahn explained.
LG's magic remote for Google TV.
The flip side of LG's magic remote for Google TV showing QWERTY keyboard.
Smart TVs should learn from the Xbox a few lesssons.
1. Having a fast easy to navigate system is good. My Smart TV has tons of built in apps which takes a long time to scroll through to get to the one or two I use. The Xbox has many more capabilities but it move quickly through the menus and has a single place to look for the stuff I actually use.
2. The XBox provide HD and enough power to be the Smart in the Smart TV link. However to watch NetFlix I have to pay Microsoft for a Gold subscription so I can pay NetFlix for the content. Luckily my smart TV can do NetFlix directly but my Smart TV cannot view content outside the walled garden of built in apps because the DLNA capability does not seem to want to work with much of anything.
In my mind the Smart in TVs should be able being about to talk to content sources. The TVs should be able to query the content sources whether it is a Blue-Ray player, an online source, my own server, or a cable box. I should be able to interact with the TV to select the content I want and the TV interacts with the source to get that content.
With some physically limitations of course such as the Disc has to be loaded into the player. But why can't the TV tell the player to play or pause the content. A single remote control because the TV is the center of the human interface.
Instead of spending money on getting licensing deals and adding new apps to a TV, just create a standard interface and protocal to talk with content providers. This allows focusing on improving that one piece of software that talks to any provider who wants to talk.
Outside of the TV world we call this a browser application and it uses the IP protocol to communication with any other computer in the world.
I still am not sure I understand your point.
Your answer to this example may help me understand.
I have a show I want to watch, say "No Reservations" by Anthony Bourdain and I have a smart TV (or Roku box, or Blu-ray player with the smart features) and accounts on Netflix, Amazon Prime (streaming) and Vudu.
Using the smart TV features (not a website via a browser), how to I find out 1) if this show is available to watch; 2) which service?
Ideally, I would have some way to type or search for this once, and then a "supervisor" feature would automatically find and start playing the TV show.
Which content aggregation or smart TV feature already provides this?
Like Bert, I use a PC as a TV interface/portal and exclusively use a keyboard/mouse instead of a dedicated remote control. I think it all comes down as to how you views televisions in the big sense. I gave up on the notion that TV's are passive devices for entertainment. My television is nothing more than an oversized display which means the real power is at the other end of the HDMI cable.
Manufacturers are still clinging onto the old model that "The TV is the is the content source". I'm not going to spend %500 to upgrade it every 18 months because they put new hardware inside for a better YouTube experience. However, if it was an external device for $100, then I might consider it.
Smart TV should learn from Microsoft Xbox.
1) With Xbox you can navigate the menu by pointing in the air (if you buy the external Kinect sensor)
2) Xbox has instant fast user menu (vs Samsung TV menu which is very slow to load)
3) Xbox are gradually rolling out live TV network stations dedicated to sports,news and movies. Smart TV (ref. Samsung) is so far behind in obtaining licensing agreements.
All true, Frank, but honestly, I've done this and it's so much easier than people might think.
The searching for TV content is done like searching for anything else. No doubt, if people or CE companies get serious about Internet TV, search engines will be tweaked to make this easier. And too, I see no reason to raise the bar so much higher for TV content search than it is for any other search. I found all manner of TV content online, including cool portals no one ever mentions, simply by using Webcrawler. (Note: not insisting that Google is the only search engine.)
As to the remote mouse and keyboard, I can guarantee you that using a mouse is easier and more flexible than a using a typical TV remote. And the keyboard is used very rarely. Mainly, it would be used to set up new bookmarks, or to use the search engine, Once you've got your huge assortment of sites set up, you browse away with the mouse alone, while relaxing on the sofa. Optical mice work perfectly well on a sofa.
Siri is fine too, I'm not saying otherwise. It's just that I don't think the smart TV solution HAS to be dramatically more advanced and sophisticated than what PCs and tablets are capable of, in order to succeed.
You're thinking of this like an engineer Bert, and also assuming that consumers will know exactly what they want to watch and how to search for it.
Instead imagine an intelligent assistant -- pardon me if I make the analogy of "Siri for video" -- where a child could ask, for example, to see something about African jungle animals, and the assistant would fetch a list of age-appropriate content on that subject. Or an adult could say "I'm looking for a sci-fi film that came out in the 90s in which the main character is a robot" but he forgets the name of the film.
A mouse and a keyboard for watching TV? That is a non-starter for almost everyone. If I want to go that route, I have a desktop computer in the other room, so why do I even need a TV at all in the main room? Oh yeah, because I want to sit on the sofa, relax and be entertained, and I don't want to expend a lot of effort in the process :)
I see no reason to assume that consumers become brain-dead only when watching TV.
Consumers have become perfectly capable of searching the web for anything they need. There are already TV content aggregation sites aplenty out there, including portals run by each of the major TV networks, and a bunch of others I already mentiuoned above. Plus, new ones seem to pop up on a regular basis. Just search, using any search engine you prefer. Smart TVs should have access to all of this.
As to remotes, how hard is it to provide a wireless mouse and wireless keyboard with the TV? Everyone knows how to use these devices already. What's the big deal?
Once the smart TV owner has set up his "bookmarks" or "favorites," on the TV's browser, he can do all of his channel searching with the mouse alone. Sitting on the couch next to him. This is really, really easy.
My suggestion to everyone out there who's looking for a smart TV, just buy yourself a PC to dedicate to this task. PCs are pretty cheap these days, and HDTVs can very easily be used as the PC monitor. This way, you needn't wait for the CE companies to figure this out.
The quote from the analyst says it all: "the basic need for an environment where consumers can browse all the linear TV and Internet content, and choose one they want to watch still exists..."
We live in a vast universe of content -- linear content either from a MVPD or streamed from the internet, and on-demand content from the MVPD, from local DVR storage and also from the internet. But to search any of that content, to have any clue about what one might want to watch and how to find it, we still rely on keyboards or black brick remotes filled with buttons, and we rely on multiple portals to do the searching -- everything from a web browser to a primitive hierarchical on-demand menu system to the 1980s-style spreadsheet interface that still dominates program guides.
Smart TV has gone almost nowhere since the day that phrase was invented. It's a shame too, because the market need is there, the content is there and the consumer frustration is there.
Consumers are reminded of this every time they turn on their "smart TV" and realize there are literally millions of things they could potentially watch at that moment, but the vast majority of those things would require some real effort to search, make a decision, and then push all the right buttons to start the delivery process.
Smart consumer, dumb TV.
Just got a smart TV and they clearly haven't figured it out, yet. It comes with wireless, yet doesn't hardly use it. It's on my LAN (WiFi), and so are all the new Blu-Ray players and Game Boxes, so why do I need HDMI cables any more? Why can't I wirelessly display Windows from my PC on it? The value it brings is a physically large, high definition display that sips electricity and talks WiFi. Why is there a iPhone app that gives me a remote that does the keyboard inputs nicely, but can't talk to my cable box, or my PC? It doesn't have the horsepower to display my iPhone videos without skipping every 2 seconds, and can't (won't?) display my iTunes videos. Finally, where is the Windows PC app?
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.