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New Panasonic Televisions Watch You

January 8, 2013 | Telepresence Options

samsung-ces-0113-mdn.jpgWhy are modern TVs so interested in watching and listening to their owners?

By Glenn Derene, Popular Mechanics

Last year, TV manufacturers introduced sets with built-in gesture and voice controls. The interfaces were clunky and felt stapled on--both journalists and customers responded with an enthusiastic "huh?" It's easy to see why TV makers would conclude that gesture and voice have a natural place in the television user interface, after all, TV menus are getting more and more complicated as "smart sets" try to do more and more. Plus, Microsoft's Xbox 360 accessory, Kinect, showed that people really can get excited about gestural interfaces. But the Kinect shines primarily because of its value as a gaming device. But do people really want to talk to their TVs and wave their hands around just to change the channel?

LG, Panasonic, and Samsung think so. All three companies today unveiled improved voice controls for their 2013 TVs, and LG and Samsung are showing off fine-tuned gesture control (with LG sets, you can just point at menu items on screen). All manufacturers are also showing off linked-screen experiences with smartphones and tablets--evolutions of the smartphone remote control apps that have been percolating up for some time now. Panasonic and Samsung set also have built-in cameras that can recognize individual users and customize the experience to them. But none of these manufacturers seem to be suggesting that the remote is going away. In fact, all three manufacturers do voice recognition through the remote to improve microphone sensitivity. So the question becomes, if you've got to have the remote nearby to use voice control, why not just pick up the remote and use that?

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