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Thursday, January 12, 2012

TVs You Can Talk To, Without Sounding Crazy

Talking to the TV is usually a sign of extreme agitation, mental instability or loneliness. TV manufacturers are set to make it a more rational behavior this year, with a range of sets that respond to speech.

LG Electronics on Monday said it will sell a remote with its high-end flat-panel TVs that contains a microphone. You'll be able to speak into the microphone to enter text on the TV for Twitter updates and Web searches. You still won't be able to change the channel or control the volume by yelling at the TV.

Samsung Electronics also said it would have TVs that responded to voice commands. In addition, it's launching its first TV with a built-in camera. As you watch the ES8000 set, it will watch you back, looking for hand gestures that prompt it to move the onscreen cursor or launch apps.

The two Korean rivals were the first to show new models at a preview day ahead of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which opens Tuesday. The show will feature many variations of so-called "smart" or Web-connected TVs.

Google Inc. has tried to break into the living room with software for smart TVs. So far it has been a flop. But Sony Corp. revealed at the show that it's sticking to Google TV and bringing out a Blu-ray player that runs the software. That player will have a remote with a microphone for voice-powered Web searches.

"Smart" TVs have been around since 2008, but two things are holding them back. One is that the conventional TV remote is a hopeless tool for Web browsing, typing, and other PC-like behaviors.

"Anyone who's actually checked email on a 50-inch (127-centimeter) TV knows it's not a good experience," said Shawn Dubravac, head of research at the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the...

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