Technology Talk


How Will Smart TV Technology Transform in the Future?


The pace of innovation in the TV industry has been incredibly rapid over the past decade. TVs continue to become thinner, brighter, and more colorful, thanks to advances in screen technology. And the prices of even the most expensive TVs continue to drop, making very high-end smart TVs much more accessible to consumers. So it’s only natural to assume that the pace of innovation will be just as rapid over the next decade. But how exactly will smart TV technology transform in the future?

The first assumption that you have to dismiss entirely is that the “best” technology will win out. That wasn’t the case with plasma televisions, for example. They were generally considered to have a superior technology. The only problem was that they were difficult to manufacture at a cheap enough price point. As a result, the LED TV caught up and eventually surpassed the plasma TV. It wasn’t a win on technological grounds, but on economic grounds. So we can’t always assume that the latest and greatest technologies will always be the ones that triumph in the decade ahead.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some changes that are likely headed to the smart TV industry.

#1: New types of shared social experiences

If you think about the way you watch TV today and the way you watched TV a decade ago, not much has changed. In fact, you might still be watching TV from that same couch that you bought when you first moved into your new home. So here’s one thing that’s definitely going to change: TV is going to become more social.

In many ways, that was the original premise of connecting the smart TV and the Internet – it was a way to bring all the great content on the Internet to your TV. And it also made it possible to combine social media and your TV. You could theoretically watch a professional baseball game and have tweets related to your team show up on your screen in real-time. That was a basic type of shared experience. Even though you were sitting at home alone on your couch, you were sharing that game with total strangers.

The real breakthrough here might involve Facebook and their new forays into live broadcasting (via Facebook Live). Facebook has also talked about creating a studio for developing original video content, as well as plans for a Facebook TV app that would be available on a set-top device for your TV. Imagine combining the power of Facebook and smart TV into one platform.

#2:  Augmented reality

In the most basic forms of augmented reality, graphics and information are overlaid on top of the screen while you are watching a show, game or movie. This content is not in the original movie or show, but is something that has been pulled in from the Internet to “augment” your experience.

Here’s one example: you’re watching your favorite TV shows and you can’t stop thinking about the wonderful outfits that the beautiful actresses are wearing. You wished that you could buy something just like them. With augmented reality, you might be able to see content about the outfits as an AR layer on your screen, and even receive information about where to purchase them online, all as an overlay.


Or, here’s another example. You’re competing in a fantasy football league with your buddies, and you want to keep track of how your team is doing while you’re watching a game on TV. With augmented reality, you would see an overlay of your players’ fantasy football statistics. In fact, a form of AR is already available for football. If you watch a game, you’ll notice that overlays are drawn on your screen to show the first-down marker. And the broadcasters love to draw little lines and squiggles all over your screen, showing you the route that a pass catcher took, or the intricate series of balletic moves that a monstrous, 300-pound defensive end made to sack your favorite QB.

#3: Virtual reality

One step beyond augmented reality is virtual reality (VR). With VR television, you would be able to bring objects to life as virtual reality experiences. In one demo of this technology, Microsoft showed how it might work with its HoloLens technology. Imagine that you’re watching a football game on TV. You’d hit a button on your remote control and put on a VR headset, and you’d see what appeared to be a re-enactment of the play right in front of you. As part of the demo, Microsoft also showed what appeared to be a VR tabletop. Instead of watching the game on a TV, you’d watch it on a tabletop. You could then touch the screen, and miniature VR players would appear on your tabletop.

As more and more studios develop VR movies, it’s likely that we’ll get smart TVs capable of playing them, as long as you’re wearing a VR headset. For example, at the recent Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, there was a segment of the show devoted purely to immersive VR experiences. In one film, you could strap on a VR headset – in addition to a real bulletproof vest – and walk onto a mini-stage set, complete with trees and bushes. A VR movie then started on your headset, in which you were immersed in a world of elephant poachers in Africa. At times, you were flying overhead in a helicopter, at other times, you were riding through the bush on a jeep. But it felt real.

#4: Holograms

Most holograms today are really just a fancy parlor trick and optical illusion that’s been around since the 18th century. But a real holographic experience would be similar to one in the movie “Star Wars,” where a hologram of the jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi appeared with a message. Using a smart TV, you’d be able to have similar types of holographic experiences.

For example, let’s say that you order an On Demand concert performance by your favorite singer (for the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s Beyonce). If you pressed the “hologram” button on your TV’s remote, you might see a hologram of Beyonce appear in front of you, singing and dancing to her best songs.

And that scenario is not completely out of the question. Thanks to a new technology known as Ultra-D, it’s possible to create realistic 3D images using light fields, parallax barriers, and software. And you don’t even need 3D glasses to view them properly! It’s being billed as an immersive “glasses-free 3D viewing experience.”


It may be hard to predict the future of smart TV precisely, but we do know it’s going to include more than just a lot more pixels. It will include innovative types of experiences and content drawing on technologies already available today. And it will likely be a lot more immersive and interactive than just sitting on a couch eating potato chips. In fact, a decade from now, we might look back fondly on the term “couch potato” and view it as a quaint anachronism.


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