Are consumers actually prepared for a television that watches you back?
By Rob Lever, AFP
January 11, 2013, 12:18 am TWN
LAS VEGAS -- In the new world of technology, television is not just for watching. It is also watching you.
So-called smart TVs being unveiled this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show offer technologies that watch the viewer, in an effort to offer more relevant programming.
The idea may sound eerie to those familiar with George Orwell's novel "1984" but people in the industry say this is the next step in the evolution of TV viewing.
Chinese manufacturer TCL unveiled at the show a new TV and set-top box to be sold later this year in the U.S. using the Google TV platform which recognizes who is watching in order to suggest potential programs.
The new TV developed with Marvell Technology Group uses sensors and voice recognition to determine who is viewing and can offer streamed or live programs which appear to appeal to an individual or family.
"We have developed many innovations to personalize the viewing experience," said Haohong Wang, general manager in the U.S. for TCL, a major global manufacturer which has made TVs under the RCA and Thomson brands.
This offers a "game-changing entertainment experience for consumers around the world that will drive the smart TV market forward at a rapid pace," said Weili Dai, co-founder of Marvell.
Panasonic also used CES to show its new Viera smart television which can recognize users and create a home screen allow programming tailored for each.
Other manufacturers are working on similar technology which take advantage of television over Internet.
This new interactivity opens up possibilities for advertisers who will be able to develop more targeted pitches, but raises some of the same privacy concerns of data collection on the Web.
"The concept is not so much Big Brother as Big Marketer," says Thomas Coughlin of the data consulting firm Coughlin Associates, who is attending the Las Vegas gathering.
"This could be creepy to some of us because it is making use of data in a way that has not been done before."