CES Report: Samsung Puts Recommendation First in New Line of Smart TVs
New flagship range features revamped Smart Hub, HEVC compatibility, Ultra HD, and intelligent navigation
In a press conference not short on hyperbole, Samsung seemed to break new ground in just about every area of the TV viewing experience and just about justified its attempt to “bring back the wow factor, to create demand and to out perform the market.”
Asking rhetorically whether it was possible for technology to "know me," Samsung North American president Tim Baxter unveiled the S-Recommendation engine, which enables the discovery of personalized content based on previous viewings and user ratings.
Available on Samsung 2013 Smart TVs, Smart home theater, and Smart Blu-ray players, S-Recommendation checks preferred content across various services, including broadcast TV, streaming VOD content, apps, social content, and locally-stored content from personal devices.
“S- recommendation comes with voice interaction, making your TV almost human,” suggested Baxter with no hint of irony. “You can request your TV for movie selections, it acknowledges simple commands and understands natural language and full sentences, and it even replies.”
This development fits into a revamped Smart Hub, the company's smart TV platform. The interface is now split into five panels (for movies and TV on-demand, app store, social media, linear schedule, and personal photos, videos and music) to help users manage and navigate different types of content, which are displayed as thumbnail images. The panels can be "flipped" between one another—via gesture control of course.
“The new Samsung Smart Hub will change the way you discover content, removing barriers between people and content and devices,” claimed Samsung president Boo-Keun Yoon.
The flagship of the new range is the Samsung F8000, available in 46-, 55-, 60-, 65-, and 75-inch screen sizes and equipped with a quad-core processor to make the switch between apps or online services, instantly.
That extra horsepower is also being used to make these sets perhaps the first in the market to decode HEVC video, the codec that not only makes 4K and 8K broadcasts possible but also significantly ups the quality of streamed video.
“We now offer the best streaming video picture quality on a Samsung TV, the first to support HEVC offering much higher video quality over lower bandwidth,” said Baxter. “We call that intelligent viewing.”
Heralding “the next frontier” of home viewing, Samsung previewed two 4K Ultra HD displays including a 85-inch and a 110-inch model both capable of upscaling from HD in order to fill out the scarcity of 4K content, and containing speakers built into the frame for immersive 120 watt audio.
There was also a 55-inch OLED display, the F9500, which had the cunning knack of being able to display two full HD programmes at once viewable from the same screen at the same time provided viewers wear 3D glasses. These come with personal speakers built in, providing stereo sound for the corresponding programme.
All the models include Samsung's AllShare DLNA client which connects the TV to compatible mobile devices and home appliances wirelessly and creates a smart center for media and whole-home automation.
What's more, Samsung's TVs are planned to be upgradeable by way of a hard drive that inserts to the back of an F8000 range TV carrying the latest package of smart TV features.
Announced last year, and delivering this, the Samsung 2013 evolution kit is “a brain transplant for your TV,” said Baxter. “We are leading the way in personalising and humanising devices and redefining what smart is.”
For a CES press day that has been rather lackluster and lacking in genuine development, Samsung at least showed it had the product range and vision to make the connected home seem like something practical and fun.
The world of digital entertainment is rapidly changing, and video publishers need to learn from the lessons of the music companies.