Panasonic Smart Viera 2013 features announced
An expanded range of features and apps hit the Panasonic Smart Viera Smart TV platform
UPDATED: Now contains new UK specific information from the European Panasonic Convention 2013
With Smart TV an incredibly important part of any TV line-up, the Panasonic Smart Viera 2013 service has been radically overhauled and updated to offer more features and customisation. The bulk of the features are available on the Plasma TV range and the new LCD range.
Top of the pile is the new My Home Screen, which lets users customise the Panasonic Smart Viera home screen to display the content that they're interested in. It's supported by most of the new range, and lets each family member create their own personal home screen.
What's more, the My Home Screen is the default place the TV goes to when it's turned on, rather than the more traditional approach of starting on the first TV channel. However, you can choose which profile My Home Screen should start on, or just force the television to go straight to normal TV if you prefer.
Aiding profile selection on the high-end sets with a built-in camera and the sets that support the optional add-on camera is face detection technology. In combination with voice control, the camera detects who's face is in front of the TV and switches to that person's profile.
We saw it working on the conference floor and it worked correctly from normal viewing distance. However, there was only one person in front of the TV, so we're not sure how it will deal with a living room full of people.
My Home Screen lets you create a custom Smart Viera view for each member of your family
We have to say that the new interface is very smooth and a vast improvement over the previous year's models.
SMART VIERA APP 2.0
To go along with the new smart features is a new app, Smart Viera App 2.0. Designed for Android and iOS, it's a complete remote control for your TV. As well as letting you control standard features, such as changing channel or navigating menus, the app also provides several unique features.
First up, is a calibration screen. This lets you adjust your screen's settings from your tablet, seeing the results in real-time, full-screen. It's a big improvement from making the same changes from within the TV's own menus, not to mention a lot easier.
Next, is the App Launcher, which lets you navigate through all of the apps you have installed on your TV, choosing the one that you want to use. Once you've selected one, your TV switches to that app immediately. As a quick way, for example, to get to Netflix, it's brilliant and saves navigating through a few menus.
Swipe & Share 2.0 is the new method for sharing content from your mobile device to your TV. You can just swipe a finger across supported content, such as a photo, to send it automatically to the TV.
The app also displays a thumbnail of what's on screen – just tap it and the content is sent back to your device. This means that your TV can be used to share things, as you can send a photo to the TV from one device, then pull it down on another.
New this year is the optional Electronic Touch Pen (TY-TP10U). This lets you annotate and draw over photos on your Plasma TV (LCD is not supported), then send the altered image back to your mobile device.
The Touch Pen lets you annotate and draw over photos, sending the results back to your smartphone
Likely to be more useful is Voice Interaction. This lets you talk into your smartphone's Viera Remote 2 App or the touchpad remote control to control your high-end 2013 Panasonic TV.
Why use the remote when you can talk to your TV?
Voice Guidance works the other way round, converting on-screen text into synthesised speech, helping people with sight problems operate their TVs.
If you've used a previous version of Smart Viera, rejoice, as the horrible 3D menu has been replaced with a simple, faster 2D menu that's easier to navigate. All of the big-name apps are there, including Netflix and Skype.
In the US, the big new addition is the Home Shopping Network (HSN) network. This lets you watch the live shopping channel stream and interactively buy products using your TV's remote. No plans for a similar service in the UK have been announced.
Shopping is built into the US version of Smart Viera 2013, but isn't available in the UK