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Tuesday
May012012

Smart TV Will Change Your Living Room -- But How?

By Dennis D. McDonald

Mike Elgan’s How Smart TV Will Change Your Living Room is one of the better “future of TV” articles I’ve read. His view of the changing role of TV is straightforward:

  1. The TV as a videophone. 
  2. The TV as a video game arcade. 
  3. The TV as a computer.

Plus he gives some thought to “future proofing” that offers some food for thought for those of us whose equipment still spans many years.

I’m thinking about all three uses as I move forward with selecting a 60” plasma TV for the living room. I’m also considering an upgraded audio system to handle surround sound decoding and switching audio and video among devices, plus I’ll probably be getting an Apple TV device to replace the Roku

There are some glitches though despite the rosy view that Elgan presents. Aside from cost, there are some additional considerations. Let’s run through Elgan’s categories:

  1. The TV as a videophone. Yes, I see this happening more and more, people channelling video chats through the main TV. But there will be one hurdle: many chats will NOT be group affairs, and expanding a video chat to include everyone else sitting on the couch will not always work. The aunts and uncles may have some things they just want to exchange one on one without the little ones hearing, and Gramma and Grandpa may have some choice pieces of advice they may not want to share with a son- or daughter-in-law, so I don’t see this as a slam dunk. (My next TV is definitely NOT going to have a built in camera.)
  2. The TV as a video game arcade. I’m not a gamer, but members of our household are. One thing I’ve noticed is that when the large TV is being used for gaming, that’s all that’s going on with it, especially if the sound is turned on. Not everyone wants to watch you hunt down and kill the opposing soldiers, no matter how sharp and pretty the images of bloodshed and destruction are in HD. 
  3. The TV as a computer. I definitely would like this, to quickly and easily throw an image from my computer onto the big TV and vice versa. Transportability of audio and video signals across laptop, TV, tablet, and smartphone is definitely an up and coming thing. This is one of the reasons my next computer will probably be by Apple — I suspect their solution to cross-platform portability will be simple and elegant.

But I do remain concerned about how easy all of this is going to be to work together. When we first got into surround sound, DVDs, and “large screen” television back when the earth was still cooling, I remember the calls I’d get from my wife while I was on the road asking, “How do I turn the TV in the living room on?” 

Things have gotten better since then, I admit, but we still have a mix of old and new technology in the living room that even I find it a pain to deal with sometimes. 

My recent experience just getting sound from a Vudu movie was a sobering reminder that we still need email and technical support just to get the basics to work. So the promised land described by Elgan is definitely coming, but in some households it may arrive kicking and screaming.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Dennis D. McDonald

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