Better 3D, voice control, more apps: How CES 2012 will advance the TV

CNET's David Katzmaier and Ty Pendlebury preview the TV technology they expect to see during the 2012 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show.

Will TV makers tout 3D again or allow it to fade into "just another feature" territory? We're guessing "tout." Sarah Tew/CNET

Welcome to CNET's predictions for the TV hardware category at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Dave Katzmaier here. I want to do something different for the 2012 CES preview. After nearly 10 years of handling TV reviews and coverage at CNET essentially by myself, I'm now joined by a colleague whose main beat is also TVs: Ty Pendlebury.

He's already written afewreviews and blog posts , done his share of videos and podcasts , and he also has plenty of experience reviewing TVs for CNET Australia and has attended CES in that capacity. So we decided it would be cool for Ty and I to write separate CES TV previews and lump them into this post. Just to keep it interesting, neither of us consulted with the other on what we're writing here, so look upon the repetition not as tedious, but as further confirmation of the inevitable near future.

Dave's divinations

More passive 3D, cheaper active glasses with a universal standard, better 3D PQ. Even with passive 3D's picture quality issues, its cheap glasses and practicality advantages over active mean that more TV makers than just LG, Vizio, and Toshiba will sign on to the passive bandwagon in 2012. Meanwhile active glasses will get cheaper and we'll hear about the Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative , a universal 3D glasses standard that allows interoperability between different makers' active specs. Finally I expect 3D picture quality for both active and passive technologies to improve, although I'm doubtful anybody will announce "full-resolution passive" at the show.

LEDs will outnumber non-LED LCDs. Add CCFL-based LCD TVs to the list of "almost dead" TV technologies. Despite their potentially very good picture quality , these old-school backlights will be tough to find at CES and even stores in 2012, replaced by LEDs of every variety--including a resurgence of non-edge-lit full-array models at the entry-level.

Better Internet suites, more Web browsers, and Google TV, voice control/search, and built-in Skype. TV makers have plenty to improve upon interactivity-wise. Nearly everyone should have built-in Wi-Fi, I expect more QWERTY remote controls, and manufacturers will continue to tout new apps. Web browsers will be even more common on TVs, but they'll probably still suck. I should also see more models equipped with the new, but still disappointing , Honeycomb version of Google TV. More promising, I'd like to see voice control and universal video search a la the new Xbox 360 , as well as the ability to use big-screen Skype without having to buy a separate speakerphone accessory.

Sharp's 70-incher: Big in person, puny thumbnail.
Bigger and cheaper. Sharp's resurgence in 2011 with its relatively affordable 70-inch TVs hints that other makers will also strive to make jumbo flat panels more affordable.

Cameos by bigger OLED and glasses-free 3D. CES wouldn't be CES without appearances in booths by next-gen tech that won't see store shelves that year, and my nominees are 40-inch-plus OLED ( LG, I'm looking at you ) and glasses-free 3D ( Toshiba, pick up the white courtesy phone ). If either is announced as "real products," it'll cost enough to make the Elite look cheap...but they're sure to nab plenty of video footage and breathless blogging. Bring it on, 2012!

Pendlebury's prognostications


Kinect in your TV. Steve Jobs may have "cracked the code " of simplifying a television's user interface, and many people have suggested a Siri-type voice-guided interaction between user and TV. Apple won't be the first company to do voice control of TV content, though; that honor now belongs to the Xbox Kinect with its latest update . But it's not yet a part of your TV. At CES 2012, I think we'll see at least one TV featuring technology from Israeli company PrimeSense, which develops the 3D sensors used in Kinect. Likely candidates for this are Vizio, LG, and Samsung, but there'll probably be some Chinese manufacturers showing off similar tech, too. Having a Webcam in your TV also enables Kinect-style gaming and no-hassle Skype-ing.

Bezel-less TVs. In the coming years, soup kitchens will be filled with lines of dejected TV designers as there will actually be nothing left to design but the stand. TVs such as this year's Samsung D7000 have shown the way with an incredibly slim bezel, and in 2012 this trend will continue with TV bezels barely wider than a pencil line.

OLED. OLED won't be a viable technology until about 2015, but this year we'll see more bendy, wacky, and see-through OLED panels. Samsung and LG are reportedly readying large-screen OLEDs for this year, and in coming years we'll see plasma dovetail off and OLED take a hold.

1080p passive 3D. While there will inevitably be more "glasses-free" 3D televisions displayed at CES 2012, the technology needs you to keep your head locked in place or else you lose the effect. I think there will be 1080p passive TVs at the show, where the TV performs the shutter effect--this is opposed to active systems, which feature shutter glasses. At present, passive TVs halve the resolution of the TV and interlacing-like artifacts are a big problem.

Remote viewing apps. ESPN has a remote app, and most cable companies now have apps letting you watch TV on your iPad, so why not the TV itself? All connected TVs now offer some form of remote control via smartphone, but I can see this extend to watching content directly from the TV tuner or HDMI input. Watching your favorite Blu-ray movie on your iPad? The copyright implications will trouble the movie studios, but I think it's coming.

Blasts from the pasts: Previous CES TV previews

  • CES 2005 featuring 1080p; Rear-projection DLP, LCD and LCoS; Digital Cable Ready; "slim" CRTs; and one LED backlit LCD: Sony's Qualia ($12,000)
  • CES 2006 featuring more 1080p; iDCR; cheaper plasmas/LCDs, fewer RPTVs; and next-gen flat panels with FFL, LED, and, yes, SED
  • CES 2007 featuring HDMI 1.3; xvYCC; 120Hz; LEDs and friggin' lasers; and, yes, 3D.
  • CES 2008 featuring larger OLED; more LEDs and friggin lasers; "smooth" processing; 3D; energy efficiency and 150-inch plasmas.
  • CES 2009 featuring Eco; Internet connectivity; OLED and LED; 240Hz and smoothing; inch-thin cabinets; and the "digital transition." Bonus: Ty's 2009 CES wrap-up
  • CES 2010 featuring 3D (for realzies this time!); OLED; green/Eco; more and more LED; apps/widgets/Bluetooth/QWERTY; an iPhone pairing?; Kuro nostalgia
  • CES 2011 featuring passive vs. active 3D; Apps and Google TV; even more LED backlights; and yes, more Kuro nostalgia. Bonus No. 2 Ty's 2011 CES preview
 

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