THE battle of the living room is hotting up as electronics manufacturers try to turn your TV into a hub of entertainment to rival games consoles and media players.
The latest giant to turn its sights on your lounge is Panasonic, which unveiled a new range of televisions at the CES trade show in Las Vegas on Monday.
“Panasonic is committed to creating new products that deliver a richer and more convenient consumer experience,” said Shiro Kitajima, president of Panasonic’s consumer marketing in North America.
The Smart Viera range for 2013 will include voice and face recognition that promises less stabbing away at the remote control and easier access to your favourite channels.
The new Smart Vieras will detect which family member has walked into the room and tailor the choices according to their preferences. So a child might be presented with a list of suitable channels to watch while an adult may be offered the full range of internet browsing, downloadable videos, etc.
The collection of 32 HD TVs go on sale later this year, with pricing yet to be revealed, and will compete with similarly equipped sets from Samsung.
Panasonic says it was the first manufacturer to produce a Smart TV in 2008 but it’s only in the last year that the concept of TVs with apps has begun to take off. The Japanese firm announced a new tie-up with YouTube to make it easier to find and play online videos.
It also demonstrated a new e-commerce app that links into the US-based Home Shopping Network that enables viewers to buy items advertised with a click of a remote. No doubt the concept will migrate to European models of the TVs if it proves popular.
Panasonic also demonstrated a couple of unusual new peripherals for its TVs. The first was an unusual stylus pen that integrates with the screens, enabling users to edit and manipulate photos on-screen. It might be as simple as adding an annotation to your picture or touching up the image to improve its quality.
The stylus is part of the the new Swipe and Share software that enables iPhone and Android users to send and download images on the Smart Viera. However, there’s no word on how much it will cost or when it may go on sale.
The second was a pair of Bone-Conducting Headphones, which are intended to assist the hard of hearing who want to enjoy TV while still conducting a conversation with others in the room.
The headphones attach to the user’s head but don’t go over the ears, the idea being you’d still be able to hear the ambient noise around you while getting clear sound via the Bluetooth link to the TV. Again, no news on pricing or availability.
Panasonic is also joining the media streaming market with two new boxes to compete with the likes of Roku, Apple TV and Philips. The higher-end model will be capable of outputting 3D content and even includes a web browser.
Both will be capable of playing videos, etc, from external sources such as hard drives as well as the usual suspects such as Netflix. The two boxes are due to hit the shelves in the US next month but neither European launch dates nor pricing was made public.
Almost as a throwaway at the end of its CES press conference, Panasonic took the wraps off five new camcorders, including three with real-time broadcasting that can send their video directly to a smartphone via WiFi. Presumably, this would be useful for remote monitoring for security reasons.
Last to roll off the production line were three new cameras, including the rugged Lumix TS5, which is waterproof to 43 feet and shockproof from a height of 6.6 feet. No prizes for guessing pricing details were thin on the ground too.