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It’s looking like 2013 is going to be the year where TV gets personal. All the big TV brands are making an effort to streamline their previously cumbersome smart TV interfaces by introducing a degree of personalisation.
Arguably the most extreme of these new personalisation approaches is coming from an unlikely source: Panasonic. The Japanese brand hasn’t traditionally blown us away with the presentation or innovativeness of its Smart features, yet this year it’s looking like it might just set the pace in the increasingly important smart TV race.
There are three key streams to Panasonic’s new push for Smart TV glory. First and most instantly appealing is the ‘my Home Screen’ concept. This allows multiple users in your home to set up their own, individual starting screens, making it easier for them to quickly access the sort of content they prefer.
Three pre-designed and themed ‘home screens’ are available per person, or each user can design one from scratch, choosing their own layout and populating it completely with just the apps they want to get quick access to.
The three pre-designed Home Screens are built around TV, Info and Lifestyle themes, each of which favours a particular content type. For instance, the TV Home Screen lets you browse the electronic programme guide listings, including being able to see a small version of what’s showing on each channel as you highlight it in the listings.
The info one, meanwhile, emphasises Web browsing, providing among other things quick access to 10 bookmarked sites, while the Lifestyle Home Screen features digital ‘post-it’ notes, clocks, calendars and the like.
Accessing your Home Screen roster is as easy as putting your face in front of the TV. For as soon as you say ‘My Home Screen’ into the mic built into Panasonic’s new touch pad remote control or your Android/iOS smart device, a camera pops up on some of Panasonic’s new top-end TVs that can recognise your face and immediately call up your own Home Screen options.
We’ve tended to be a bit suspicious of this sort of personalisation stuff given that TVs seem to be family devices (watched by multiple viewers at once) rather than personal ones. But Panasonic’s system is so prettily presented and, best of all, so fast and smooth in its operation that it really does look seductive.
Despite all the unexpected glories of my Home Screen, though, overall we can’t help but feel even more attracted by stream two of Panasonic’s new Smart TV assault: its greatly enhanced support for ‘second screens’.