Future tech 2013: TVs and digital entertainment

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The Sony Bravia KD-X9000 supports the new Ultra HD standard, which will be a big TV trend in the next few years.

In 2013, televisions are going to get bigger. Not in size, but in resolution, with the first displays to support Ultra High Definition resolutions hitting the market. The new Ultra HD standard offers two resolutions: 7680 by 4320 pixels (16 times as many pixels as on a standard HDTV), and 3840 by 2160 pixels (also known as 4K). Both can support frame rates of up to 120 frames per second for smoother video, and the higher resolution makes images sharper and more realistic. Several manufacturers have an­­nounced Ultra HD models: LG offers the 84-inch LG 84LM9600, and Sony has its Bravia KD-X9000. Because Ultra HD is so new, both are pricey—just under $20,000 for the LG, and $25,000 for the Sony.

Ultra HD: These displays may share the problem that 3D TVs did at launch: lack of content. Although the Ultra HD standard has been finalized, no straightforward way to get Ultra HD content exists, as no Blu-ray or broadcast standard supports it. So buying an Ultra HD right now would appeal only to the most ardent early adopter, until a clear-cut way to deliver the content to your TV appears. In the meantime, Sony is lending early purchasers of its Bravia KD-X9000 model a server that is preloaded with Ultra HD content, including ten movies (ranging from the recent Spider-Man reboot to the classic The Bridge on the River Kwai) and other Ultra HD content, with the promise of more such offerings to come.

Smarter screens: Your TV may already be smart, but it will soon get smarter. Existing TVs can run various apps that let you do such things as watch Netflix movies and tweet—but that’s just the beginning. The range of apps available will continue to widen, with existing companies jumping into the TV app market. For in­­stance, Electronic Arts recently announced versions of the popular board games Monopoly and the Game of Life for Samsung Smart TVs, and other gaming companies are looking at this area.

The LG 84LM9600 is another Ultra HD-ready set.

The number of ways that your TV can receive this extra content will increase, too; the forthcoming ATSC 2.0 standard will allow broadcasters to send files to your TV on the same signal as the show itself, so they could offer things like alternate endings or behind-the-scenes videos similar to the ones found as extras on DVDs. This standard (to be finalized early in 2013) also offers the possibility for a TV to send data such as live sports stats to a second device—a phone or tablet, say—alongside the live video on the TV, for example, or a link to a website running a TV commercial.

However, the ATSC 2.0 standard won’t include support for broadcasting Ultra HD video; that will have to wait for ATSC 3.0, which won’t be ready until at least 2015. You’ll also have to add extra components to your media center when this standard rolls out, as current displays will require another decoder box.

Talking to your TV: Soon, yelling at your TV might actually be productive, since several manufacturers are adding voice control and other technologies to make your TV easier to use. Last year, Samsung launched sets with a feature called Smart Interaction, which blends voice, facial, and gesture recognition. This feature is being rolled out across a wider range of models in 2013.

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LG 84LM9600: An Ultra HD TV set.

The latest version of Google TV also includes voice control, so you can change channels or search by saying the name of the station or show. LG is the first maker to announce a TV that uses it: the G2 series will cost $1700 and $2300 for, re­­spectively, a 32- and a 47-inch model.

Apple has been experimenting with voice recognition for some time through Siri on the iPhone, and we hear persistent rumors that this might be one of the key features that its long-expected TV will offer, or that future models of the Apple TV receivers could include.

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