Once upon a time, all a television needed to do to be impressive was to look sharp and work properly. Today’s technology innovations have raised the bar, thanks to advances in screen technology and the flood of people with business degrees who believe that the customer’s experience should be enhanced. Televisions on the market now can connect to the Internet, hold and store apps, and sync with gaming consoles. Emerging models will work with the wave of a hand or voice commands. What once was snubbed as mindless entertainment is fast becoming the central nervous system of the home.
The physical television set is the focus of most new innovations. ‘In a world where the latest gadgets are automatically expected to be hooked up to technology ‘˜ecosystems’–apps, internet connectivity and access to social networks–television makers are banking on the fact that couch potatoes will want to see their friendly living-room TV get in on the act,’the Washington Post said in an early 2012 report on technological advances.
Samsung is researching and developing voice and motion recognition, so that consumers will be able to issue commands without a remote control. Vizio, which is partnered with the Google TV initiative, was the
first to use the cloud as a means of storing and accessing online games through a television set. Other mainstream manufacturers, such as Sharp, are building televisions capable of blending regular cable content with shows stored on web-ready platforms like Hulu or Netflix. Game console integration is also a factor. Gaming systems like Microsoft’s Xbox, Nintendo’s Wii, and Sony’s PlayStation offer far more than just basic gaming entertainment. Most also support interactive experiences that will respond to users’moves and body commands, allowing participants to actively place themselves within the gaming experience. Many also act as video consoles so that users can access a range of video and web content.
In a 2011 pre-holiday press release, Microsoft emphasized the flexibility of the Xbox, which aligns the technology with the greater trend toward convergence of various types of entertainment: ‘Ready to mix things up? Effortlessly switch from games to music to live TV and more, simply by telling your Xbox what you want to experience.’Incidentally, Microsoft really means ‘telling’: the newest Xbox systems respond to voice commands, and can switch from gaming to shows to movie libraries with little more than a word.
Sometimes, gaming consoles hook right into existing cable services. Increasingly, though, they are developing their own proprietary content, often as a means of competition. Xbox and PlayStation both offer exclusive sports channels and television show collections. Amazon is also looking to break into the scene by offering its Prime video content to a range of gaming platforms, and extended its reach to the PlayStation in early 2012.
‘A lot of our customers have been asking us to make our services available on the PlayStation 3 for a long time,’Bill Carr, Amazon’s Vice President of Video and Music, told Bloomberg Businessweek in April. ‘It’s all about building the best digital video service available.’
Consumers want to build interconnectivity in their living rooms for the sake of convenience. Gone are the days of multiple remotes and aggravating wired connections. If developers get their way, the internet and the user’s presence will be the only required controls. With a wide range of existing technologies and countless more on the horizon, the most confusing part of these living rooms of the future is likely to be narrowing down the choices.