Whether it shows up in a few years in your living room or a new kind of computer display screen in your office, the next generation of television gets seen first at the Consumer Electronics Show, now taking place in Las Vegas. So what does the latest vision of TV's future look like?
Although the manufacturers did their best to generate interest in 3D TV in past CES shows, the idea of wearing clunky glasses to watch a small amount of content on a new set that replaces the HD model you just recently bought somehow didn't catch on. But that does not mean 3D is dead, since there are clearly industries where 3D video can be very useful -- medicine, automotive design, architecture, real estate and molecular chemistry among them.
Vizio is hoping there's still a train to catch for 3D, and is showing at CES a no-glasses 3D TV prototype. Attendees say the image quality is less than 3D with glasses, but a prototype usually is not up to its peak.
Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are showing curved, very thin OLED TVs. OLED provides higher contrast than current HD technology, consumes less power, and is so thin that flexible or curved models become feasible. But it is also considered hard to manufacture and prices are high, such as the $10,000+ 55-inch model that LG is presenting at CES.
LG is taking orders for OLED TVs, with delivery next month, and Samsung says it will be rolling out new models in the first six months of this year.
Panasonic is showing a 56-inch 4K Ultra-High Definition OLED TV prototype, combining the best of the two spectacular technologies. In addition to the extreme resolution, the model is attracting attention for the fact that it is only one-half-inch thick.
And, in a preview of how this kind of tech could end up in your office, Panasonic showed a prototype of its 20-inch, 4K Windows 8 Pro tablet with a jaw-dropping resolution of 3840x2560 pixels. Such a device could serve a triple purpose: as a tablet, a laptop computer (with a keyboard peripheral) and a high-end TV.
The Panasonic Viera smart TVs are trying to showcase the next generation in interactivity and support for second-screens, like smartphones and tablets used in conjunction with TV watching. Among other things, its interactive sets are designed to acquire behavioral data from viewers, which could allow TV ads to be targeted the way many Web ads are.
Samsung models allow viewers to use gestural, in-the-air motions and speech commands that make all those remote controls you have seem so very last century. To obtain this interactivity, a small camera is mounted on the top of the screen, and it can be folded back if you're concerned about some remote Peeping Tom.
The company said it will be adding this level of interactivity to unspecified, coming models, and, if you can't wait, it is offering an upgrade kit that offers similar functionality for some of its recent, high-end smart TVs. LG is showing a motion-sensitive Magic Remote wand-like device, with such functions as the ability to change channels by writing channel numbers in the air with the remote.