LG 55EM9600 OLED

With the industry showcase CES over, and now that we’ve had a few days to recuperate, it’s time to take a look at new technologies coming out this year.

For the most part, this year’s CES was about bigger, cheaper flat panels, but in the crevasses there was some tech that’s actually worth getting excited about.


Of course.

LG and Samsung announced OLED, or Organic Light Emitting Diode televisions. We, and many other media outlets, gave the LG a best in show award.

Why are we excited? OLED promises to have a better black level and contrast ratio than plasma (even CRT), while offering lower power consumption and thinner cabinets than LED LCDs. Not only the best of both worlds, but better than both worlds.

No pricing was announced, but rumors have the 55-inch models in the $8k-$10k range. Before you scoff, it was only a few years ago that 50-inch LED LCDs were near this range. Prices will drop, quality will improve. We can’t wait.

2) Gesture Control/Facial Recognition

Several companies, including Samsung and LG (see a trend?) announced gesture control, or the ability to adjust your television without the remote. Think of it like a Xbox Kinect, but built into your TV. Wave your hand to increase the volume, etc. With Facial Recognition, the TV can automatically log you into Skype, or other services, just by looking at the TV.

In some closed-door demonstrations at the show, we got to see this in action. Like any cutting-edge technology, it’s not as seamless as you’d want, but it is undeniably cool.

Will you ditch the remote for hand waving and facial recognition? Probably not this year, but how could this not be the future of product interaction?

HDTVs On Sale

Blu-ray Movie Deals From $5.49

Big Markdowns on 3D TVs

3) ARC (Audio Return Channel)

Released as part of the HDMI 1.4 standard, ARC sends the audio from the TV back up the cable to the receiver and/or soundbar. We’re finally seeing products with this feature built in.

In most cases, a home theater setup would be: source (Blu-ray, cable/satellite) -> receiver or soundbar -> television. This works fine, unless the TV itself is a source. With the prevalence of Smart TVs, this is becoming more common. So if you’re watching Netflix through an app on your TV, you either have to run a separate optical cable from the TV to the receiver, or just use the TV speakers.

With ARC, the TV’s audio gets sent back towards the receiver, and then out to your system’s speakers. Both the TV and the receiver/soundbar need to have ARC, and you’ll need an HDMI cable that supports it (most new ones do).

4) Mobile High-definition Link (MHL)

Roku recently released the Streaming Stick, essentially a miniaturized version of their Internet streaming box that’s the size of a USB flash drive and plugs directly into your TV. While cool, it itself isn’t “new tech” worthy. But how it works, is.

Mobile High-definition Link is a connection technology that uses existing connector types (i.e. HDMI or USB) to transmit 1080p video and 8-channel audio from a device to a TV, and then power from the TV back down to the device. This power can either charge the device (in the case of a mobile phone) or in Roku’s case, power it completely.

The odd thing about the Roku is that the TV has to have the MHL technology, meaning it has to be a new TV. Most new TVs already have streaming services built in. Regardless, it’s a cool idea that I’m sure many companies will developing products for.

5) Speech Recognition

While OLED got all the fanfare at CES this year, it was speech recognition that was seemingly everywhere. Whether it was standalone products, or built into TVs, talking to your products seems to be coming in a big way. You can thank the hype around Apple’s Siri for that.

The reason so many of these products are coming out now, and working, is largely due to one company: Nuance. Thanks to years of research and extensive studying of human speech patterns, Nuance allows devices to understanding what’s being said. No small feat, that.

Samsung and LG both have speech recognition built into many of their 2012 models. Commands like “Volume up” and “Power off” make the interaction with your TV more fluid, and entirely sci-fi.

Like any new technology (and the Gesture/face control mentioned above), it’s not quite as fast or fool-proof as you’d hope. Still, the idea of being able to walk into your TV room, say “TV On, channel 4,” and have the TV magically come to life is any sci-fi nerd’s dream. The tech isn’t quite there yet to do this perfectly, but it’s getting there.



Geoff Morrison   @TechWriterGeoff
Check out Geoff’s book.


Have a question for the HD Guru?

Copyright ©2012 HD Guru Inc. All rights reserved. HDGURU is a registered trademark.