2014 CES Revisited: Streaming and Smart TV Technology Matures

Having walked a full marathon through the 2 million square feet of last week’s International CES on no more than three hours sleep per night, I've returned home and life is beginning to return to normal. My take on streaming media at CES is that streaming media and smart TV technology has matured. Ideas and innovations like search, recommendations, social TV, and customization are finally beginning to work as intended. While I covered many of the big changes and news while at CES, there were more announcements of upgrades and a few odd new products that didn’t make it into my blogs from the show.

Meet Bob Ltd. introduced The Bob Stick, an HDMI dongle with an Android operating system that connects to a TV. Bob offers families a personalized viewing experience along with the ability to share and watch together in real time no matter where they are. Each family member customizes their menu screen and is offered recommended movies and TV shows based on their viewing habits, thus eliminating children’s programming from parents’ screens and vice versa. If you want company watching a movie (or TV show) but your child or spouse is away from home, invite them to watch along with you and message each other during the show. The company is based in Israel and is looking for content partners in the U.S. so there is no release date available.

Toshiba’s L7400U series Smart TVs will now will include the Cloud Portal, which also makes it easier to share with your family. Along with a Toshiba mobile app, the Cloud Portal allows for personal messaging and a shared family calendar that appears in the menu when the TV is powered on. Previous versions of the Toshiba ePortal menu included a calendar but provided no way to share the information. The new mobile integration makes it easier for the whole family to stay connected and in sync.

The PLEX Media Server now streams local content from DLNA sources in your home network in addition to streaming from online sources—network TV sites, Amazon Instant Video, Food Network, and more. Previously there were separate apps for home media and for online streaming. Plex also showed that you can instantly "fling" (stream) any web video to a TV or device that has the Plex app. The Plex app for mobile device also can stream to the official Chromecast app.

Like PLEX, PlayOn is a media server that runs on a computer (PC only) to stream from local media libraries on your home network as well as from a long list of online providers, including HBO.com, network TV websites, Hulu, ESPN, Amazon Instant Video, and many more. PlayOn announced the PlayCast for PlayOn feature that allows users to stream from PCs directly to the Xbox One, Roku, and (hopefully soon) to Chromecast. Any content on a home network that can be accessed by the PC, as well as videos recorded using PlayLater and web videos saved with PlayMark, can be instantly streamed directly to these devices. At this time, PlayOn is the only way to stream from a PC to the Xbox One.

If you haven’t already checked out the Sound & Vision CES 2014 coverage, click here, to see what else was new.