Smart TVs and their accessories heat up the tech world
Published: Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2011 at 2:50 p.m.
Some of the top buzzed-about gizmos coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show, which concluded Sunday in Las Vegas, include smart TVs — televisions that connect to a Wi-Fi network and cruise the Internet like the soon-to-be little used computer gathering dust on the desk.
But if you still have a dumb TV, there’s no reason to worry. Another item catching viewers’ attention is an upgrader — the newest entry in the field of gadgets that smarten your current TV, allowing it tune into cyberchannels and much, much more.
Last year’s hot ticket was 3DTV, but this year is all about interconnectivity. These toys, albeit costly ones, could make current desktops, laptops, even netbooks so last decade. After all, who needs a computer when the table-sized monitor on your wall will do the same thing — and be easier to read?
According to the A.C. Nielsen “State of the Media 2010” report, nearly 116 million U.S. homes have at least one TV. And some 31 percent own four or more.
“Every manufacturer (at the CES) promoted some kind of Internet streaming capability in their coming models,” says Tara Dunion, senior marketing director for the Consumer Electronics Association, which hosts the annual extravaganza of electronics every January.
“They’ve taken the industry to the next level,” she adds. “Finally, capability, demand and ability to have a computer on TV is happening at the same time, and is a common trend that consumers will be purchasing this year.”
The smart Vizio TV was named the Best of CES 2011 — it comes with Google TV.
Don’t need a new TV? Then an upgrade box, such as the LG Smart TV Upgrader — named one of the best new products of the show by the editors of Cnet.com — could be the ticket. “For those not in the market for a new TV, this is very affordable to get,” Dunion says.
The upgrader is LG’s entry into a line already including products such as the Roku XDS, Apple TV and a Sony device that, essentially, open existing TVs — even some old tube types — to the Web.
“Sometimes when you’re watching a show, they’ll put up a web address for more information,” Dunion says. “That usually means you have to go to your computer right then to look it up, or wait until after the show — and frequently you forget.
“Having the connection right there, you can go immediately to the website and not risk forgetting about it,” she adds. “You can stream YouTube, Hulu, text files, apps, video, music … if you can do it on your smartphone, you can do it on your TV.”
Cables aren’t necessary, but they help viewers get the optimal picture quality. Alachua’s DH Labs was in Vegas this month to introduce its new, high-end, swivel-head HDMI cable specifically designed for the coming generation of ultra-thin OLED TVs.
DH was the only exhibitor of 2,700 in the show hailing from Alachua or Marion counties.
“A higher-end cable has a higher data capacity rate,” says Greg Hovsepian, DH vice president of sales and marketing. “This is especially important for sports, action, really deep blacks.” These new 1.4 HDMI compliant cables can handle resolutions up to 1440p; the highest high-def resolution currently is 1040p.
Also on the horizon: glasses-less 3DTV — Toshiba introduced this in Japan last month — lightweight passive glasses for 3DTV and mobile TV, and iPhone-size televisions you can take with you wherever you go.
“It’s the convenience factor,” Dunion says. “If you’re at your child’s soccer game, you don’t have to miss that big show you wanted to see.”
Other gadgets that have been around but you may not have heard of:
Google TV. This service was launched last year; essentially, it turns your TV into a wall-mounted smartphone with apps, web searching and even TV viewing.
TV Ears. This is a wireless headset that allows you to hear the TV, but no one else in the room has to. The personal television headphones are especially good for seniors. “It’s the best invention there ever was,” says retired Star-Banner editor Bernard Watts, 90, who’s had a set for years. “You can actually hear what’s on TV, but not bother anybody else.”
Hammacher Schlemmer offers a similar device it calls the Voice Clarifying Television Headset.
Ultimate Pocket Remote. It’s a keychain and a TV remote that controls virtually any TV set. According to gadget-reviews.com, it has “two positive features: first, it can replace any remote if you have lost it somehow, and second, it will help you when you are in a pub.” Essentially, you can change the channel on the tavern’s TV or even turn it off. It’s about twice the size of a quarter.
Video glasses. A France-based Vuzix line of designer eyewear allows you to watch movies and videos played right before your eyes — literally. Silver embedded in the plastic lenses reflect the projection into your eyes; because of ratios, it’s like watching a large-screen TV. The glasses also can connect to MP3 players, iPods and gaming systems. The Israel-based Lumus Optical also offers a line of video glasses.
TV Sleep System. Maybe it’s a British thing, but TVBeds in England are exactly what the name implies — a bed with a television built into the footboard. According to tvbeds.com: “This is a truly decadent product to indulge the senses. Lie back, touch your remote control and the flat panel LCD TV raises from its secret compartment to the perfect viewing position.”
Contact Rick Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.