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Samsung brings voice, gesture control to TVs

Samsung's new Smart Interaction technology, built into its high-end 2012 TVs, uses a camera and microphone to enable watchers to control TV functions via voice and gestures.

A little camera/mic bulge will grace the top bezels of Samsung's Smart Interaction LED and OLED TVs.

LAS VEGAS--Now that gesture you make to your TV might actually elicit a response from the boob tube itself.

Today at CES, Samsung has announced that certain of its high-end TVs will include new Smart Interaction technology, which allows control over the set by waving, shouting, or otherwise using gestures and voice.

Think of Smart Interaction as Microsoft's Kinect built into the TV, without the games. The feature depends on a camera and microphone sandwiched into the bezel along the top of the screen, powered by voice and gesture recognition software developed, the company told CNET, internally by Samsung itself.

At first the system will only allow control of in-menu operations of Samsung's Smart Hub connected TV platform, as well as basic TV menu controls and volume and channel changes. A company rep described swiping in the air to navigate menus and speaking search terms aloud ("search for '30 Rock,'" a la Microsoft's Bing video search) as launch-day functionality, but said that none of the apps built into the TV supports voice/gesture control yet. However, the newest version of the software developer's kit, released at the show, does include such support.

We were told that the Skype app takes advantage of the camera and microphone, obviating the need to purchase an external Skype camera/speakerphone (currently $170) to use the TV for video calls.

The company also includes "Face Recognition" among the system's capabilities, which will enable different family members to access their separate Smart Hub accounts by simply smiling (or not) for the camera.

Smart Interaction will be available on Samsung's Super OLED TV, its two best series of LED models, the UNES8000 and UNES7500, as well as its flagship PNE8000 plasma. A company rep was unclear whether it would also appear on the step-down PNE7000 plasma, but said he doubted it.

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