CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, kicks off this weekend in Las Vegas. Similar to last year's show, connected television is going to be one of the big themes. LG is unveiling a TV that can sync with your phone. Samsung is rumored to have a motion control TV. And Google's YouTube is expected to announce a partnership with TV manufacturers that could eventually turn Android phones into a kind of remote control. All these companies are on a quest to make the TV of the future.
While consumer devices like mobile phones and tablets have gotten “smart” -- with touch-sensitive connectivity to the Web and such -- TV hasn’t evolved much.
“Watching TV is a very passive experience,” says futurist Scott Steinberg at Tech Savvy. “But it’s going to get very interactive very quickly.”
Steinberg says before Apple, the phone was a passive experience too: “You haven’t seen anybody do for the television set quite what Apple’s iPhones and iPad did for home computing.”
And yet, the TV is still the hearth of the home. So right now, tech and electronics companies see TV as the next frontier, and they’re all vying for some real estate.
I asked Steinberg to give me a tour of the future once the dust settles.
"So picture, if you will, in the future walking into your digital living room," he says. "And you’ll simply say, 'TV on.'
"Motion recognition is going to be a huge piece of the puzzle," Steinberg added. "Imagine waving your hand 'Minority Report'-style to flip through hundreds of channels."
"You may decide you want to watch the latest Lakers' game," Steinberg continues. "If you decide you want to debate the game with friends and family, you can simply video conference simply by stating 'call my brother.'"
And, if you decide nothing’s on, Steinberg says, then you can stream everything live from video to music. "You’re going to have access to thousands of apps," he noted. "The future of TV is going streaming, it’s going to be wireless, it’s going to be about computing and it’s very much going to be about two-way communications."
But in my actual living room, there’s only a Vizio TV. It’s not wireless. It used to be connected to my PC, but then we had a power outage and the PC blew. I tried to hook up my Mac to the TV, but turns out I need a different cable. Sarah Rotman Epps is an analyst at Forrester and she says my experience is actually pretty common.
“The reality is when most consumers when they connect their devices to their TVs, they’re still doing it through a pretty dumb cable,” she said.
Smart TV efforts have so far been flops, she says, because the TVs are “too complex, too hard to navigate and didn’t make everything easy-to-search, easy-to-play.”
Rotman Epps says while it’s just a matter of time before we get to that digital living of the future, the TVs at CES this year are still be more dumb than smart.