TCL Wants to Soup Up the AI in Its Televisions With Samba TV

One of the first tools coming to TCL TVs is a new AI layer called Smart Screen, which is like Amazon's X-Ray but "for everything," according to Samba.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read
A TCL television placed on a yellow background

TCL's Q8 QLED TV was revealed earlier at CES 2023. 


TCL wants to seed more machine-learning smarts into the TVs it sells you. 

The China-based manufacturer and Samba TV, a television researcher and measurement firm, said Thursday that they're striking out on a multiyear research-and-development partnership, aimed at amping up artificial intelligence for TV viewing. The companies will demo some of the first AI that will deploy on TCL TVs at joint presentations at CES 2023.

Initially, it will add a layer of AI smarts on top of the normal TCL experience called Smart Screen, which can surface information and recommendations related to what you're watching on screen by automatically identifying things in the show or movie that's playing in real time. 

If you've ever seen X-Ray while streaming video on Amazon, Samba TV CEO and co-founder Ashwin Navin said that Smart Screen is similar to that -- but "for everything." Smart Screen can identify not only which actors are in the scene but also what they're doing, the music that's playing or even landmarks, objects and brands in the background. During a "smart pause," the software can surface deeper info and recommendations for you to explore based on exactly what you were just watching.  

A TV is paused on a scene from the show Yellowstone, revealing informational popups with details about actors Luke Grimes and Kevin Costner and episode information.

Samba TV's Smart Screen technology includes a "smart pause" feature with informational pop-ups automatically generated by identifying what's on screen in real time. 

Samba TV

"TCL is excited to partner with an industry leader like Samba TV that continues to shape the future of television," said Shaoyong Zhang, CEO of TCL Electronics, adding that the companies' work together aims to advance a "new generation of connected TV" with a more seamless and engaging experience for viewers.

The agreement makes TCL the first TV maker to partner with Samba TV to jointly develop the AI tools and features Samba has been working on for more than five years.  

For viewers like you, that could add sophisticated, interactive elements to what you're watching. 

The tools could also create opportunities for advertisers and marketers to serve up ads that play off the action you just watched, like a restaurant commercial showing after a dinner scene. 

In addition to Smart Screen, the demos at CES will show off a feature call Gesture Control, which allows a TV maker to leverage a camera to let you control some TV functions with physical gestures. Another is Picture Perfect, which helps a TV automatically adapt its picture-mode settings to suit the genre of programming on screen at any given moment.

Samba TV's Navin said the partnership "opens the door" to helping establish AI as "the foundation of the television viewing experience." 

"Together with TCL," he added, "we are committed to driving the industry into the future where the living room experience is personal, interactive and immersive."