By RONALD BYRNE
YOU expect to see anything on TV these days but nothing quite prepares you for finding your own face staring back at you from a corner of the huge screen.
That's what caught my eye as I was browsing the new Smart Vieras at Panasonic's sprawling pavillion at the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 in Las Vegas.
I was watching TV, but the TV was watching me back. Yes, it had detected my face almost as soon as I sat down in front of it, and was trying to match my mug to its smart system.
That was Panasonic's new smart TV feature and it is very cool. With it, your TV will recognise you and other members of your family so that it can serve up your personalised home screen.
You get to design your own home screen and it contains all the content that you are interested in - your favourite TV programmes, your photo album, your most accessed webpages, etc. And everyone in your family can have their own.
A camera rises up from the middle, top edge of the TV screen and is coupled with Panasonic's face-recognition technology to enable this wizardry.
And the camera is also useful when you Skype family and friends via your Smart Viera, if they too own this type of TV or one that has similar capabilities.
According to Panasonic, the TVs in its 2013 range that will have this feature are the VT60 plasma and the WT60 LCD series.
Send and receive
But that's not all you get with these Smart Vieras.
There was another feature that caught my eye. Panasonic calls it Swipe and Share.
Nearly everyone has a smartphone or a tablet, or both, now and we all love to share photos, videos, music and webpages. We love this as much as having the pictures we took on these portable devices displayed on large TV screens, right? Especially if they show up huge and in vibrant colours.
With these Smart Vieras, we get to enjoy all these. Start by downloading an app to the respective smartphone or tablet, and then link the device or devices to the TV. The link can be via the home WiFi or Bluetooth.
After that, with single swipes, you will be able to make your photos jump from the small screen in your hand to the large one in your living room.
You will be able to do the same with videos, music and web content.
If you already own last year's Viera TV, this is not new. But Panasonic has upgraded its Swipe and Share feature for this year's models.
Not only will you now be able to send photos and the other types of content from the devices to TV, you will be able to send these from the Smart Viera to other smartphones and tablets that are linked to the TV.
Plug a USB drive into the TV, and you also get the option to save onto that storage platform, or input the content from the thumbdrive.
Also, with the 2013 Smart Vieras, accessing the USB drive from a smartphone or tablet for the purpose of copying or managing content will not interrupt anyone who happens to be watching a programme or video on the TV at that time.
The Swipe and Share features work with both Android and iOS based smartphones and tablets. This is an advantage over certain other brands of smart TVs, according to Panasonic.
Talking it to the next level
Next, there are smart TVs that allow you to use gestures to activate features or when browsing the Internet, but Panasonic has shoehorned voice-recognition technology into its soon to be released Smart Vieras.
This gives the user a certain amount of voice interaction with the TV, for scrolling menus, operating the controls, and selecting options.
There is a certain Star Trek-esque quality to this feature and I had goosebumps when the Panasonic staffer was running the demonstration.
So instead of you saying "Computer ..." like in the science fiction TV series, you would say "TV ... search the Internet for Consumer Electronics Show 2013" to your Smart Viera. And the built-in web browser would then display the Google results for your search.
To prevent ambient noise interference, Panasonic has you speaking to the TV through a Touch Pad controller or your smartphone.
You can also have your Smart Viera read out whatever text is being displayed on the screen, such as news stories, picture captions or recipes.
And because not everyone in the world speaks English, Panasonic has wisely included a translator. Smart Viera owners will be able to choose from about 19 languages.
The 2013 Smart Vieras, which feature low power consumption, are due out in the spring time.