Op-ed: the Future for Smart TV

2016-1-7 14:41| Views: 4557

In 2013, the global TV production was 225,000,000 units, a 3% drop from 2012. Although CRT TV contributed the most to the loss (56% drop), flat screens didn’t perform exceptionally well either (a mere 3% increase.) Countries and areas like Japan, Western Europe and North America had respectively 13%, 9% and 2% decrease in flat screen production in 2013. China and other emerging markets have been the main drivers for flat screen TV production; this led to the global increase in 2012 and 2013. However, NPD DisplaySearch’s forecast only showed 1% increase in China’s flat screen market, meaning that the market is near saturation.


To reverse the negative trend, brands have been providing more pixels for less to encourage consumers to upgrade their device. Take the popular 32 inch TV for example; the average price in 2013 per unit has dropped 15% to $262. However, the units are increasingly less distinguishable. Price becomes one of few ways for brands to maintain their market share. Emerging markets still have sufficient first generation flat screen consumers to allow relatively more price flexibility. For mature markets, however, it will take more to attract new buyers or wait for the life cycle for old devices. Smart TV research and development are what we should be focusing in the future.

Smart TV is not a new concept. It has been in the market for over 5 years. Over 50% of Chinese consumers own a smart TV, but most still uses it as a regular TV. It is because TV manufacturers have insufficient power to involve program providers in the process. Also, smart phones and tablets become popular ways to view contents. With that, touch screen technology raises to be the preferred method of human computer interaction (HCI). TVs, even smart TVs with a control box, face hurdles in creating a more intuitive interaction with users.


TV manufacturers have since been experimenting different HCI methods, including improved remotes, gestures, speech recognition and more. The new remotes added new arrow keys to the original key pad, much like Apple TV. However, compared to iPhone, iPod or iPad, Apple TV is, although an easy TV controls solution, mediocre at best. There are other ways to interact with the arrow. Some manufacturers, such as, Hillcrestlabs, Movea and Philips, have implemented Motion MEMS and/or optical sensors to let users have more a more familiar experience.


Voice command is a popular application for speech recognition, but it will take more time to realize its full capacity of natural speech. Companies like Nuance are developing such technologies. Speech recognition is user friendly, but it is still not usable for complex tasks. Also, its accuracy may be compromised should there be noise in the background. Speech recognition will play a bigger role in mobile computing. Siri, Google Now and Cortana are pioneers in voice command as well as natural speech recognition.


Gesture control is another promising interaction method. The basics are realized by the CMOS Image Sensor. It is either a 2D or 3D interface. The 2D interface allows a remote-free TV control with the graphical user interface on the smart TV. The 3D interface will grant a richer experience for users. There is little to no extra cost to implement a 2D gesture interface since any camera can capture images. It is cheap but there is room for improvement. 3D gesture interface will be the standard for future smart TVs. 2013 is a keystone for 3D interface development. Kinect control on Xbox One by Microsoft, PlayStation 4’s Stereo Vision by Sony and PrimeSense acquired by Apple are prime examples of such technology.


Broadcasting started in the 1930s while the more fierce competition among TV manufacturers began less than two decades ago. Flat screens won the war in form factor; digitalization pushed the boundary of screen resolution; broadband internet broke the space and time limit on content consumption. All these changes place huge pressure on the TV industry. As for the screen resolution, outside the content creation profession, resolution over 2k or 4k may be a bit too excessive for the mass market. It is more topical than practical. Smart TVs are gaining ground with traditional TV brands and other device makers. The industry is exploring new business models to expand the market. In the end, it is worth noting that, regardless the hardware, it is the user experience, or HCI, that counts.

Shenzhen H&T Intelligent Control Co., Ltd. ( ICP 06028608 )

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