Industry roundtable: Top TV technology trends

posted on Monday, 24th June 2013 by Steve May

3D  Smart  4K  Trade 

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2013 is shaping up to be a landmark year for TV technology. Network connected Internet-enabled screens are rapidly becoming ubiquitous, 4K Ultra HD is starting to make its mark and OLED continues to tease. But what's the perspective like from inside the world's biggest TV brands?  We invited senior executives from Sony, Sharp, Samsung, Panasonic and LG to share their own world view on the rapid advances being made in TV, unexpurgated. The resulting confab makes for fascinating reading…

The biggest buzz in TV at the moment is 4K Ultra HD. What does it need to take off, is it on your road map and do you imagine it will provide as big a market boost as Full HD?

Chris Trewhitt, Sony TV product marketing manager: "4K is very much on our road map, for the past eight years Sony has been at the cutting edge of 4K. No other company is capable of providing the full 'scene to screen' solution because of our commitment to the technology from filming to TVs. The upscaling in our 4K TVs, and also the BDP-S790 Blu-ray player, means that you can enjoy the 4K experience now…"

Tommaso Monetto. Sharp UK Aquos product manager: "We plan to introduce 4K models in the second half of this year on large screens. 4K is a key development in screen technology which, in conjunction with Sharp's unique ICC up-scaling chipset, will provide a level of picture clarity and detail never before seen. The availability of HD content will make this a very attractive proposition for customers as soon as it is launched..."

Guy Kinnell, Samsung Electronics Head of TV/AV (UK) and Consumer Electronics (Ireland):  "The buzz around 4K at this year's CES demonstrated a huge level of interest from press and customers alike. Our new 85-inch Ultra High Definition TV is already a design & engineering award winner. 4K, along with OLED technologies, is going to be just as a significant development as high definition. To put everything in perspective, today's 1920 x 1080 resolution Full HD TVs give an image of around 2 million pixels while 4K TVs deliver an 8 million pixel image.' We identified that lack of content has been an obstacle for the expansion of the 4K market, but this will change as the technology becomes more popular and specific content is created for this new market. The popularity of 4K has grown within the movie industry. 3net Studios is creating its first 4K native series, Space, which will immerse viewers in a vision of the universe, while directors such as Peter Jackson and James Cameron are expected to shoot their future films in 4K.

"Samsung uniquely offers 'future-ready' products from our 7 Series range of TVs and above via our Smart Evolution upgrade feature. In the case of the S9 UHD product, a Samsung UHD TV investment will remain current to the evolving UHD standard. We provide, to our knowledge, the only UHD TV product that will evolve with the 4K standard as it becomes established and agreed - an added piece of mind for our premium consumer base."

Fabrice Estornel, Panasonic UK Head of TV and Home AV:  "It's early days for 4K TV and it could be quite some time in the future before 4K is broadcast over the air. However new technologies like the latest generation of video codecs mean people should be able to enjoy 4K in many ways - Internet, games console or potentially via satellite - that could be implemented very quickly. There also are discussions about a possible 4K version of Blu Ray which could boost the adoption. We think the future looks bright for 4K!"

Craig West, LG Head of Marketing for consumer electronics: "We were the first manufacturer to launch an 84-inch Ultra HD TV (pictured above) and LG will solidify its market position with the addition of UHD TVs of varying screen sizes - we displayed 55 and 65-inch versions at CES which offer the same picture quality and viewing experience as the 84LM960V…."

OLED remains a tantalising Next gen TV proposition. How long before it becomes important?

Chris Trewhitt, Sony: "We have considered OLED as major candidate for the next generation TV and continued technical development to enlarge its display size and enable mass production. OLED has already been deployed successfully in various applications such as professional monitors. We're considering various possibilities regarding the development and commercialisation of OLED. However, at this moment we have nothing more to announce…"

Tommaso Monetto. Sharp UK: "4K will be the technology that delivers the biggest end user benefit…"

Guy Kinnell, Samsung: "OLED screens have already been used on mobile phones and the next generation of TV screens could be just as flexible, even foldable. We showcased one such OLED TV model at CES - curved screens provide the picture at equal-distant to the viewer's position from all parts of the screen, providing an even truer picture experience than current configurations. Samsung's F9500 OLED TV features self-emitting red, green and blue sub-pixels, eliminating the need for backlighting so that images are produced with industry leading colour, motion performance and absolute blacks and pure whites."

Fabrice Estornel, Panasonic: "In theory, OLED combines the best of Plasma and LCD technology in one place, so it has the potential of being successful. Panasonic has developed a 56-inch 4K OLED display, it has 4X the resolution of current HD and at a mere ¼-inch thick and just 27 pounds, it's half the weight of a normal 4K display. The engine driving the Panasonic OLED is our printing technology, which gives us the ability to make panels that are larger and more affordable than our competitors.  We unveiled a prototype at our 2013 dealer convention in Nice, but do not have a launch date yet…"

Craig West, LG: "LG believes that OLED will bring in a whole new era of home entertainment and is committed to delivering the technology to homes in 2013, across North, Central and South America, Europe and Asia. To continue to raise consumer awareness ahead of its arrival, LG is also increasing R&D and investment and marketing to solidify LG as a leader in OLED technology. The company will also continue to develop and improve production techniques in cooperation with LG Display in order to strengthen our position in what is expected to be a fast-growing segment in the next two or three years."

How has accepted have Smart TV technologies been with consumers? What's new this year we should be looking out for, and where does Smart TV go next?

Chris Trewhitt, Sony: "Key to the future of Smart is how we harness the processing power of mobile devices that can enhance the viewing experience. This year we've launched TVs that are NFC capable, allowing users to share content from phones or tablets to their TV by simply touching their mobile devices to the supplied remote control. In addition we have a new app named TV SideView enabling users to navigate and search for content on their mobile device prior to viewing on their TV. So the EPG, smart services and their home network can all be perused without interrupting their viewing experience…"

Tommaso Monetto. Sharp: "Last year Sharp focused on launching a number of  60-, 70- and 80-inch screens, based on the demand from end users for mega screens. This year Sharp will include a new Smart Aquos Net platform; the increased presence of tablets in the living room will translate into Sharp TVs that can be controlled by Android or OS devices..."

Guy Kinnell, Samsung: "We've led the way in the Smart TV market with more TV apps and exclusive content, such as ITV player, than other manufacturers. Consumers have downloaded over 20 million Samsung apps worldwide, proof that people are rapidly embracing the technology. This year's Samsung Smart TV development is a true step forward when compared with our competition. It's viewer-centric. This year's new developments include our S-Recommendation technology which enables the discovery of personalised content based on viewing history and user ratings. S-Recommendation checks preferred content across various services including broadcast TV, streaming video on demand, applications, social and locally-stored content from personal devices to ensure there is always something to watch.

"This year, we will see interesting format shifts becoming more prevalent. We also predict the emergence of a new wave of viewers - the 'never corded'. There has been a significant rise of services such as Sky Go, with Virgin also preparing for a cloud based service - where consumers still subscribe but in a different way. Content providers are becoming more competitive - wanting to have online firsts to attract consumers. Examples include the BBC announcing an 'online first' strategy; a 12 month trial where a range of genres of programming will be put online before appearing on TV."

Fabrice Estornel, Panasonic: "Smart TV acceptance has been good, this is a fast growing segment of the market. As a testament to this, 70 per cent of our 2013 TV range are Smart. Panasonic's new My Home Screen feature is a new approach to onscreen menus that brings all your favourite sources and functions together on one easy accessible screen. My Home Screen lets individual family members set up their own onscreen menu preferences, such as movie or video, music, social networking, news and weather, Skype...  And it's easy to access your personalised interface using face recognition or by selecting it when you turn on your VIERA TV.

Craig West, LG: "We will continue to evolve and develop our already award-winning Smart TV platform. 90 per cent of our 2013 range will be Smart enabled. LG was proud to announce recently that it is bolstering the on-demand content offered by our Smart platform with the addition of Napster, giving customers access to over 18 million songs. This joined the newly added Eurosport Player service and industry-leading On Demand film apps to provide near limitless, premium content for all the family to enjoy. Further to this, Smart TV is an area that is rapidly developing and growing, with platforms moving beyond apps into  intuitive features to give users simple control over their entertainment. LG's updated Magic Remote offers the epitome of this; it comes equipped with Voice Mate, allowing users to tell the remote which channel they would like to watch. Alternatively, just drawing the channel number in the air changes the channel without the need of fiddling with buttons. In addition, the new Magic Remote's universal control feature allows users to control other home entertainment devices, meaning the pile of remotes on the coffee table are a thing of the past."

How important is 3D as a feature for consumers when it comes to buying a new TV? Would you rate it a success or a disappointment?

Chris Trewhitt, Sony: "We are very much still committed to 3D, it now goes even further throughout the range in 2013…"

Tommaso Monetto, Sharp UK: "3D is a technology which is especially important in large screens and will therefore be standard in Sharp's 50-, 60- 70-, 80- and 90-inch TVs this year."

Guy Kinnell, Samsung: "3D is a strong feature within our Smart TV range. We will continue to work with content providers and broadcasters to provide consumers with the best possible 3D viewing experience. Almost two thirds (62 per cent) of viewers rated Samsung highest for 3D quality overall in a series of blind tests by carried out by Decipher Media Research, which compared our TVs to similar models from the competition..."

Fabrice Estornel, Panasonic:"3D is a key feature in most of our TVs, but consumers don't purchase a TV just for 3D viewing, although obviously it's a good benefit to have. They purchase TVs for other reasons, such as good picture quality and reliability. The London 2012 Games was a good example of 3D being used successfully…

What can we expect to see new in terms of TV picture quality improvements and product design during 2013?

Chris Trewhitt, Sony: "Our unique Triluminos display enriches viewing with a wider palette of ultra-real colours. By integrating QD Vision's 'Color IQ' optical component with Sony's unique display technologies, our televisions achieve a significantly wider colour gamut, providing a far more natural and vivid viewing experience with a heightened sense of depth. We also have a subtly powerful new direction in design with our 'Sense of Quartz' screens. Timeless geometrical forms are fused with the monolithic quartz-like rectangular panel floating over a circular base, conveying purity and simplicity. They're united by an intelligent 'core', responding to your commands with a softly coloured glow immediately beneath the Sony logo on the TV's bezel…"

Tommaso Monetto. Sharp: "2013 will see a Sharp TV range with even slimmer bezels, greater choice of materials and colours and more daring table top stands. We will continue to deliver the outstanding picture quality that has allowed the company to sell so many super-large sets…the picture quality is really there for everyone to see!"

Guy Kinnell, Samsung: "Samsung continues its leadership in the LED Smart TV market by integrating new hardware with beautifully designed televisions to provide the finest viewing experience available. Our new F8000 series offers more vibrant and richer colours, higher contrasts and a brighter picture quality than ever before. The F8000 range features a 75-inch screen, whereas the ES8000 from last year had a 65-inch screen. With the increasing consumer demand for larger screen sizes, Samsung will also expand the number of models available in 60-inches and above.

"Technological developments include the introduction of quad core processors in the premium line-up and dual core processors in all Smart TV products below 7 Series; improvements in our key micro-dimming technology for contrast and colour reproduction; improving web-content displayed on large screens (text, photography, video); the introduction of HEVC (high efficiency video coding) on our premium range - an important enabler for 3D, FHD and UHD via Smart TV; intelligent viewing technology that adjusts the picture depending on the content being shown, drama, sport etc…

"Furthermore, with Samsung's proprietary Micro Dimming Ultimate technology, the 2013 LED TV line up also brings greater contrast, deeper black levels and maximum brightness of 3D images."

Fabrice Estornel, Panasonic: "We have refined our glass and metal design concept for 2013, resulting in LCDs with even slimmer bezels that appear to float on their pedestals, and plasmas with one-sheet glass finishes, invisible speakers and new thin metal stands. Advances in picture processing and manufacturing techniques have enabled this year's NeoPlasmas to delivery 3000Hz sub-field driving, plus enhanced colours and unprecedented black and contrast levels. With regard to LCD, Panasonic's Hexa processing engine (a new picture processing system, which applies six correction methods to boost image quality from any source), introduces better colours and resolution, as well as the first 3600Hz BLS system for enhanced motion…."

Also read:
Interview: Loewe and the future of TV technology
4K TV production gaining tractions says Sony
Panasonic ZT65 plasma: The new reference?

 

 

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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