iTV? Not in the cards yet, but to hold you over until Apple releases its TV, Samsung has a few ideas about how to re-invent the television. On Samsung's new Smart TVs, you control your system with gesture, voice, keyboards and good old-fashioned buttons. And, unlike Apple's mystery device, they're on sale this month.
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Samsung first showed off its Smart TV technology in January at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but you'll be forgiven for missing it among the hundreds of daily product unveilings. We got some hands-on time with Samsung's Smart TVs and can say they definitely open up a lot of potential. Whether people will respond to them is another matter.
On all of Samsung's 2012 Smart TVs, you can control them in any of four ways:
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- Voice, which will inevitably be compared to Siri, the voice assistant on the iPhone 4S. While Samsung's solution is more limited since it's tailored to operate the Smart TV interface, Samsung reps say there's potential to go beyond that. The TVs are all equipped with microphones, and so is the remote (in case it's noisy).
- Gesture: Here's where Samsung borrows heavily from Microsoft Kinect, although some details (like closing your fingers to "select") are different.
- Keyboard: This is optional, but useful for when you need to do some serious data input, like logging in to your YouTube account. There's also an onscreen keyboard if you don't have it.
- Remote Control: Yep, it's not gone -- there's still a remote for Samsung's Smart TVs, although it doesn't look like your typical button-filled slab. Samsung's austere remote (which you can check out in the gallery) is equipped with a touchpad as well as "hard" buttons.
So does it work? Somewhat. Voice control was the clear winner in my brief hands on with the TV's mic understanding me about 75% of the time when I projected well, and the remote's mic doing even better. Gesture control was by far the most awkward, as I constantly was missing icons, holding them too long or performing gestures when I didn't intend to. It takes practice, certainly, though swiping will always be more accurate and intuitive than "selecting."
Surprisingly, using the remote control itself was awkward, too. The touchpad isn't very intuitive, and when you want to type in a number (like a channel), it calls up an onscreen pad. I don't know why Samsung thought that was a better experience than a number pad on the remote. As for the keyboard, it's a keyboard. Only a few people will tolerate it in the living room, but for those who do, it'll be indispensable.
The Smart TVs come with a few bonuses. First is the infrared blaster, which simplifies controlling other gear with your Samsung remote. Samsung's also made an effort to "future-proof" the TV, equipping it with a port on the back where users can plug in what's called an Evolution Kit for hardware upgrades. And the TV design simply rocks.
Samsung's Smart TVs will be in stores within the next two weeks, priced between $1,200 and $5,100 for sizes ranging from 40 to 65 inches.
What do you think of Samsung's bid to re-invent the remote control? Remarkable innovation or doomed to fail? Sound off in the comments.
Samsung Smart Touch Remote
The new remote control on Samsung's Smart TVs eschews the typical number buttons for a touchpad and microphone for voice control.
This story originally published on Mashable here.