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CES 2012:

Big screens on a big stage: Companies showcase newest in TV technology


Steve Marcus

Super thin 55-inch OLED televisions are displayed at the Samsung Electronics booth during the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nev.,on Jan. 10, 2012. CES, the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow, runs through Friday.

Updated Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 | 10:13 p.m.

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Around almost every corner at the central hall of the International Consumer Electronics Show lie rows upon rows of televisions from some of the industry’s biggest manufacturers, each competing to perfect the viewing experience.

At this year’s CES, internet-connected televisions have taken center stage, with manufacturers seeking to position the television as the hub of home entertainment.

The different television models each offer similar features. Web-browsers, social network integration and a variety of applications that let users access video and audio content streams are all standard.

To differentiate themselves, manufacturers have focused on the user experience, creating new, intuitive interfaces and pairing them with multi-functional remote controls in an attempt to provide hassle-free access to content.

“Smart TVs can tie together your entire life,” a Panasonic spokesman said during a demonstration of the company’s Smart Viera interface.

Panasonic views the television as the center of an integrated entertainment experience that includes computers, smartphones and tablets. One new feature was the ability to wirelessly display pictures and video from a smartphone or tablet on a television.

The company’s internet-connected televisions are controlled by a mouse-shaped device with several buttons and a touchpad.

During a demonstration, the company showed off Skype integration with their televisions, allowing families to video chat without having to huddle around a computer screen.

LG Electronics also had several internet-connected televisions on the floor in its booth, but its devices are controlled by something more closely resembling a traditional remote — only this remote responded to gestures and voice control, and it can also be used to directly point at and click on things on the screen.

One of the hottest items at last year’s CES, 3D-capable televisions are once again heavily featured at this year’s convention.

Newer models of 3D televisions have improved picture clarity and sharpness, an issue that has plagued early models, but one major sticking point remains: the majority of models still require viewers to wear special glasses to experience the enhanced video.

Philadelphia-based Stream TV Networks is attempting to solve this problem through its development of software that allows for glasses-free 3D.

The company is partnering with manufacturers to implement the software, which gives users the ability to adjust the 3D effect of whatever program they’re watching. The software can also convert traditional two-dimensional video into three dimensions, although the effects aren’t as pronounced as content that is produced with 3D in mind.

“It allows you to adapt to personal preferences, based on what you’re watching,” said Esther Koo, a spokeswoman for the company. “Our software goes in and artificially adds depth to an image.”

Koo said the company expects its technology to begin hitting the market this summer at a price that is comparable to 3D televisions that require glasses.

“We did a rundown of all the reasons 3D isn’t in homes,” she said. “The number one reason we found is people don’t want to wear the glasses. Television is a group experience, and the glasses can get in the way of that.”

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