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CES Report: Panasonic Personalizes Viera; Adds YouTube Control
Simplified YouTube viewing and facial recognition for user accounts led the way in Panasonic's CES announcements.

After boasting that it had created the smart TV category in 2008 by being the first to introduce IPTV capabilities to live TV, Panasonic has given its Viera connected TV platform an overhaul by focussing on making the experience more personalised and easy to use.

“In a few short years TV has moved from a one-way device to an interactive communications channel,” said Shiro Kitajima, president of Panasonic consumer marketing of North America at the company's press conference Monday during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

The prized development is My Home Screen, a personalized home page feature that pre-organizes favorite content from multiple sources so that you get a different screen for each user based on their preferences and viewing habits. Your children could have a different starting point for their viewing experience than parents, for example. While this may simplify navigation for a single user, it doesn't get around the issue of having multiple people settling down for an evening's viewing, each with different viewing habits. Whose profile do you choose then?

If you get one of the new Smart Viera TVs that have cameras built in—the VT60 plasma and the WT60 LCD—the TV can even recognize the user and bring up their custom home screen. The feature isn't unique, since Samsung among others has a similar recognition feature.

The manufacturer also demonstrated Swipe & Share 2.0, the ability to take photos and videos from a mobile device on a large screen with a swipe of a finger. The new plasmas (2013 Viera ZT60, VT60, ST60, and S60 Series) support the optional Electronic Touch Pen, which you can use to edit a photo, and even write on it. Then you could swipe it back to your tablet.

Francisco Varela, YouTube's Head of Global Platform Partnerships, was on hand to talk about a partnership with the Viera which is intended to make watching YouTube videos easier on the large screen.

“There will be no more entering of PIN numbers or passwords to be able to watch YouTube on mobile devices in your living room,” he declared. “We are changing that ecosystem by connecting smartphones and tablets to the same Wi-Fi network as your Viera TV and making those mobile devices your remote control of YouTube videos including playback and audio adjustment.”

Naturally Panasonic's new remote controls enable voice interaction. Indeed, new Viera TVs will even read web-based content aloud. With this, and a set of bone conduction wireless headphones that amplify sound for the hard of hearing, the company was highlighting its accessibility credentials.

There's a new partnership with Home Shopping Network, which will offer HSN Shop By Remote, a function that will allow Panasonic TV owners direct access to more than 40,000 HSN products for sale.

Panasonic plans to release 32 TVs this year, including 16 plasma and 16 LED models, but surprisingly there was no mention of Ultra-HD product, nor its support of the London Olympics' 3D broadcast.