Tech Trends 2012: Siri-ously Kinect-ed

While the hype at CES this year was all about OLED, 4K, and bigger TVs, a quiet revolution began in the interaction department. LG and Samsung both announced new ways to control TVs using facial and speech recognition, or even just a wave of your hand.

Small inroads have been made in this arena in the past, but now the push is on. Honestly, though, why shouldn’t it be? The remotes that come with televisions rarely rise above the level of atrocious.

Hands On

Samsung’s Motion Control will be featured as part of its Smart interaction feature in its premium models for 2012, a group that includes the UNES8000 Series LED and PNE8000 Series plasma TVs. like the Kinect for Xbox360, it doesn’t require you to hold anything in your hands for it to work, instead using its built-in camera to watch the room. When you wave at the TV, it goes into Motion Control mode. your hand moves an onscreen cursor, allowing you to change channels, adjust volume, activate apps, and more. even better, this allows for much finer control over Web pages — an important factor now that many TVs ship with a built-in browser.

The downside is a lag between your hand and the cursor, which makes it follow your gestures a bit drunkenly. (This will surely improve as the technology advances.) Most of LG’s Smart TVs will have their own version of gesture control. Called Magic Gesture, it works along the same lines, but requires the Magic Remote.

Face Time

Then there’s facial recognition, another part of Samsung’s Smart interaction. Once again, the TV’s built-in camera here is fully active and tracks your visage, enabling personalized logins for various apps. One example is Skype: your face logs you into your personal account, while the rest of the family uses their lovely faces to log in to theirs.

Perhaps the coolest new TV control tech is speech recognition. Not, as it’s sometimes mislabeled, “voice” recognition. (That implies it’s able to differentiate you based on your voice. instead, it recognizes what you’re saying, not who’s saying it.) Thanks to Apple’s Siri, speech recognition has become incredibly popular. What’s impressive is how rapidly this technology has advanced in just the past few years. What was once an occasionally amusing novelty is now poised to become a valid interaction and control method for electronics.

In Samsung’s demonstration at CES, company reps said “Hi TV,” which told the TV to listen for some incoming commands. it then understood and acted upon simple spoken commands like “volume up.” An external IR emitter attached to the TV even allows you to control other devices in your system using just your voice. LG’s lM9600 and lM8600 Series LED LCDs will have a 4-mode Magic Remote with speech recognition in addition to the gesture and motion abilities mentioned above.