The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show is shaping up to be a battleground for the rapidly evolving TV user interface (UI). In the latest news, Samsung has announced several UI updates for its 2014 Smart TVs, including a new "finger gesture" that will let viewers change channels, adjust volume, and navigate through content selections with mainly their fingers. A counterclockwise motion will also stop a video in progress or return viewers to a previous screen.
It's not clear if some type of TV remote is required for Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC)'s new motion-control feature (a press image suggests that it might be). But the company will clear up any questions when it demonstrates the new UI at next month's CES confab in Las Vegas.
Samsung also announced expanded voice control for its 2014 Smart TV product line. The number of countries supported with the Voice Interaction service will jump from 11 to 23. Samsung is also adding improvements to the voice search function, while also decreasing the number of voice commands required to change channels.
CE companies and service providers alike are hard at work trying to improve the TV UI. Last month Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) picked up Israeli chip company PrimeSense Ltd. , which owns the technology that powers Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s motion-controlled interface for the original Xbox Kinect. And Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) recently filed a patent application for a process that would allow users to perform gestures within an electromagnetic field to control both TV and home appliance functions. (See: Apple Gestures at Microsoft.)
Service providers like Comcast and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) typically don't use CES to promote new TV advancements, but manufacturers like Samsung, Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), and LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) always show up at the event in force. LG recently revealed that it will showcase a new TV set with the webOS operating system at the show.
So it looks like most of the big TV bets will be on the user interface in Vegas next month.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable