The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas acts like a mecca for the television obsessed. A pilgrimage for any technology journalist worth his salt, I recently visited the show and thought I would share a few musings on what I feel is about to change in the world of TV.
In short, the television is no longer merely a means to keep us entertained, but more an extension of our digital lives, managing everything from the temperature of the home to our own personal social networks.
Many already have bought into the world of ‘Smart TVs’, enjoying the likes of web browsing and apps from the comfort of their sofa. Right now the evolution of the Smart TV is very much in the early stages. Expect the capabilities of our televisions to change drastically over the coming years.
In the near future, the shape and format of television itself is likely to be the first thing to change. Major TV manufacturers like Samsung and LG are working on releasing ‘bendable’ televisions capable of shape-shifting between flat and curved panels to suit whatever content you might be viewing.
Fancy a movie? Then your television will bend to bring a more immersive cinema-style viewing experience to your home. Want to watch sports? Then the TV will flatten itself back out, all via the press of a single button on your remote.
4K is another interesting twist on TV. For those who don’t know, 4K or Ultra HD is a name given to a new TV format that uses four times as many pixels as HD. The result is incredibly sharp and lifelike images far beyond the picture quality of the likes of Blu-ray and current generation HD content.
At the moment the pricing and number of 4K TVs available far outweighs the amount of content available to watch on them. Unlike 3D however, expect this technology to catch on. Netflix has promised to begin streaming shows in the new format in 2014, but expect it to be a good while before 4K becomes as ubiquitous as HD.
Beyond TV content itself, the way we interact with our televisions also looks set to change. The near future will all be about how easy it is to send media from smartphone or tablet to TV.
At the moment, companies like Sony are implementing clever ways of sending your own photos or video to the big screen in your living room. Tapping your smartphone on a 2014 Sony TV remote for example will see content sent straight from your mobile to the TV.
Second screen experiences are also going to be a major TV trend over the coming years. Expect your tablet to become a way of engaging with movies and TV far beyond what you would normally expect.
Many Blu-rays already include a bespoke app that features stills, snippets and facts from cast members to play along with while watching a movie. This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as second screen is concerned. It’s only a matter of time until terrestrial TV programmes build bespoke apps for live audience interaction.
The distant future of television will revolve almost entirely about how your home and other devices interact with the TV. At the moment, wearable technology continues to be a bit of a buzz word, but this is largely due to the fact the likes of smart-watch tech is still in its infancy.
Once refined however, it is entirely possible our television will be controlled from the device on our wrist. Things won’t stop there, as a single device unifies control of the entire home from lighting, to heating, to the temperature of your cooker.
Natural voice recognition is also another area set to evolve rapidly over the coming years.
We have already seen how accurate and intelligent voice recognition has become on mobile, but as it grows, it will likely end up being used in every piece of tech in your home.
Likely pioneered by Google and Android, imagine a home which recognised your voice when you walked in, set the lighting to the levels you liked and switched on the TV to your favourite channel.
Without doubt, the way we watch television itself is destined to change the most. The idea of broadcasting may fade away entirely, with on demand TV becoming the one and only way to be entertained.
Catch up TV continues to grow, but it is, for the time being, still strictly for the tech-savvy. The onset of high speed broadband and cheaper, more powerful Smart TVs, will likely change this.
The end result is that the TV of the future will deliver what we want to watch, when we want to watch it, all set and controlled via a single piece of connected wearable technology.