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CES 2012: Samsung announces 55-inch OLED TV, adds voice control, face recognition to Smart TVs

Consumer Reports News: January 09, 2012 06:23 PM

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Samsung has announced a 55-inch, 3D-capable “Super OLED” TV, as well as several new ways to control some of the company’s Smart TVs. The company also announced its largest TV ever, a 75-inch LCD set.

Samsung also unveiled a concept, called Smart Evolution, that allows TV owners to help TVs keep pace with changing technology by buying an add-on kit that can update performance and features..

Samsung’s Super OLED TV, which also includes the company’s Smart TV Internet platform, will be launched in the back half of the year at an undisclosed price.

Samsung is also here at CES showing off some unique new features included in some of its LCD and plasma Smart TV sets that include 3D capability. For example, some 2012 models will get a performance boost thanks to new dual-core processors that allows the TV to multitask, allowing users to, for example, toggle back and forth between a movie and an app that can run simultaneously. And the entire line of Internet-capable sets now get built-in Wi-Fi and full Web browsers.

Even more interesting is a new control feature, called Smart Interaction, which will be included in some models. Smart Interaction technology will allow users to interact with their TV in a variety of ways, including gestures, voice control, and face recognition technology. For example, you can control onscreen navigation or scroll through Web pages with a wave of your hand, and items can be selected by making a grabbing gesture with your hand. Samsung’s voice control is built into the TV itself rather than the remote.

The addition of face-recognition technology lets the main menu screen be customized for individual users, so each user would only see the services and apps he or she regularly uses. The company also says that it expects apps to be created that can use the face-recognition technology in new and interesting ways. The TVs will come with an IR blaster in the box to allow control of other home-theater gear using the TV remote, which has been redesigned.

These TVs will also have built-in webcams for a feature called “My Mirror,” which uses picture-in-picture windows to show—or mirror--what’s seen through the webcam’s viewfinder. Samsung is offering software development kits to help third-party app developers create new types of content that can utilize the My Mirror feature.

Also new in 2012: A suite of new Signature Services apps, which include Family Story (a cloud-based service for sharing photos), Fitness, which lets you monitor training and sync to a wireless scale, and fitness programs, and Kids, which provides a more robust offering of kid-friendly edutainment. Angry Birds are also coming to new--and older--Samsung Smart TVs later this year.

There’s not a lot of information about the Smart Evolution concept, designed to help future-proof premium TV purchases. But it appears that Smart Evolution will be an add-on kit that consumers can purchase to enable the TVs to keep pace with changing technology.

Finally, Samsung is updating its DLNA-based AllShare technology this year to allow for cloud-based storage, enabling you to access content on other types of devices if you’re outside of the home.

James K. Willcox

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