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Smart TVs Are Still Pretty Dumb
What if your new TV spent as much time watching you as you spent watching it? We are on the verge of seeing TVs that will be smart enough to know what programs we want to watch and when we want to watch them. Triggered partly by Steve Jobs’ reference to an Apple TV in his recent biography, the buzz about a real Apple TV has been growing and has everyone speculating what a TV “done right” might look like. The latest rumor has an Apple 55-inch LCD TV coming to market sometime in 2012 but while speculation builds over what features we could see in a real Apple TV, here’s a look at what a truly intelligent TV might be, based on existing technology and technology most likely under development.
Intelligent TVs Will Watch You and Learn What Things You Like to Watch
It might take some face recognition technology already being demonstrated in the latest version of An droid (Ice Cream Sandwich) and used in Google’s Picasa digital image organizer, Apple’s iPhoto and even Facebook, combined with some machine learning, AI technology but imagine how useful it would be if your TV watches you for a change, learning all about your TV behavior including likes and dislikes. After becoming familiar with your TV viewing preferences, your TV could become a virtual assistant for you, recommending programs or incorporating recommendations from your network of friends.
New Ways to Communicate
With Your TV

As long as your TV is watching you maybe it will apply gesture recognition technology similar to what Microsoft has developed for its Kinect game controller and allow you to interact with your TV by waving your hand or nodding your head and of course there’s always Apple’s Siri technology so you can have a dialog with your TV using natural language commands to instruct your TV what to do.
Recommendation Engines and Proactive Recording
When describing the future or TVs, it’s important to recognize the role software could play in turning a TV into the center of your living room entertainment. The same recommendation technology we find so useful in web sites like Amazon, Yelp, Netflix, Retrevo and others will find its way into the TV of tomorrow. As more programs becoming available on demand from the “cloud,” recording shows on a DVR may become less necessary however, for first run shows like news, sporting events and award shows there will remain a need to record shows and whether the DVR is built into your smart TV or it’s part of the cloud, your TV should be aware of what you record and what you end up watching so it can make recordings for you without you setting up the recording. In fact, a truly smart TV would record shows for you that you didn’t even ask to record or discover shows in the cloud that it thinks you might want to watch. In other words your TV could tell you, “I took the liberty of recording a new show I thought you’d want to watch.”
The Tablet Becomes Part
of Your TV
The fact that your tablet will most likely become your remote is safe to assume as there are many examples of it from companies like Sony and Samsung, but as tablets move into the mainstream, it’s likely the smarts in smart TVs may come more from your tablet than the TV itself. For example your tablet may become the medium that enables your social networking Facebook activity or run a recommendation engine, maintain a guide and monitor new shows looking for ones you might want to watch.
Your TV Will Become Part of Your Social Network
With more TVs getting connected to the Internet it’s only natural to want to add your TV to your social network but there is a difference between connecting to Facebook on your TV to view wall postings, and integrating Facebook with your TV so your friends can see what you’re watching and chat with you about the TV show your watching. The concept of a “social” TV was introduced a few years ago by Boxee however we’re surprised the idea of integrating Facebook and TVs hasn’t been widely adopted. With a Facebook-enabled TV it should be easy for your friends to recommend things to watch and your TV should also learn which friends’ recommendations you like best. A socially aware TV will offer the ability to share the experience of watching TV together even when you’re not together.
The Future of TV Advertising; Super Personalized Ads
TV shows can be associated with certain demographics which advertisers can use to place somewhat personalized ads but with a smart TV that watches you, advertisers can not only know what you watch but whether or not you’re paying attention to it, chatting about it with your friends, or whether you lost interest and fell asleep. Armed with this information, advertisers could tailor ads so personal you might find them disturbing. Advertisers will have to understand the difference between useful ads and ones that could make us uncomfortable.
Keep an Eye on
Apple and Microsoft
Aside from TV giant, Samsung we don’t see much movement toward a truly smart TV coming from the TV manufacturers although that could change at this year’s CES. Is the missing component software developers and a talented UI team? Could Apple or Microsoft team up with a TV manufacturer and add the smarts to bring us a TV that watches, learns and takes the TV viewing experience to the next level?
Cable and Satellite Providers Need to Get Out of the Way
Our TV watching experience has been stuck in the past for too long. We’re prisoners of cable and satellite providers who can’t see beyond the notion of TV guides and the record button. Old TV interfaces and services need to give way to TVs of the future which will includes built-in intelligence that learns, recommends and allows us to interact with our social network, the cloud, and the other devices in our home tech ecosystem.


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