TV, at your beck and call


By Prasun Chaudhuri
  • Published 5.08.18

GENRE: 55 inch OLED Screen, ThinQ AI/Google Assistant, Alpha 9 Processor, 4K Cinema High Definition display 
PRICE: Rs 2,64,990 

Watching TV is a hassle for me these days. You have to juggle two remote controls if you are at home. In a hotel, you also have the air-conditioner remote that's only slightly different from the other two. So when you are in a hurry to watch the news, you have to call somebody - a smart child at home or a reluctant room service personnel in the hotel - just to lead you to a decent news channel. If none of them arrive in time, you lose patience and start cursing the new technology and your techno phobia. What's a minor hassle for me is actually a huge headache for my 88-year-old aunt who mostly lives alone and whose closest companion is her TV.

It's been my long-time wish that someone would conjure up a TV that would run on voice commands. A TV at your beck and call, like the most obedient and disciplined dog. You just have to raise your voice to tune in to your desired programme, shift channels, or shut off the set when things turn mind-numbingly boring.

Recently, Korean electronics conglomerate LG launched an array of smart TVs that "listens, thinks and answers" your calls. ThinQ AI - an artificial intelligence platform pioneered by the company in 2017 - has been integrated with its sophisticated OLED (organic light emitting diode) TVs, lauded for their perfect black colour and slim structure.

All that tech talk appeared like so much tech muscle-flexing until we got to watch a demo of these TVs at one of LG's Calcutta showrooms. The key aspect of ThinQ's voice control system is its ability to understand a variety of speech (accents don't matter), which lets you control your TV. When I asked it to "raise the volume to 30" and "increase the brightness a bit", it got done in a jiffy. You can also ask it to change to cinema mode, open web browser (yes, you can surf the Net), open YouTube and even launch a game console.

These, of course, happen via an AI-assisted Magic Remote. It's also an excellent way of searching for content across a range of sources, including the web. You just raise it like a microphone and say "Show me all movies of Deepika Padukone" and you get to see her repertoire on Netflix, Amazon Prime, the Internet at large, and the broadcast TV listings. You have the option to scroll, point and click the cursor on the TV screen to pick and choose operations. The remote lets you control and access your set-top box, speakers and even satellite TV.

ThinQ AI is expected to get smarter and go hands-free once voice control happens through Google Assistant. Users can talk to the TV and check for a weather update, look at vacation photos, order a pizza and call an Uber cab. And in the near future, the smart platform will allow other LG home devices - air-conditioner, washing machine and robot vacuum cleaner - to talk to each other and learn to meet your specific needs when connected through WiFi.

Apart from all these smart things, the OLED experience itself is new for most TV viewers. Even though a majority of OLED patents belong to US companies, LG makes most of the OLED TV screens. Vivid colours and inky black pictures show up on these screens because OLED TVs don't need a backlight. Other TV screens have a panel of pixels and a light source of some kind - a grid of backlights, or lights on the edges that shines through the panel in LCD TVs. The pictures are sharp because every dot in the 4K (4000) grid of pixels lights up individually and every pixel turns itself off if a scene is dark.

The extra-vivid colours were obvious when a lifestyle TV channel showed a display of wine on a table. We could feel each of the crimson droplets clinging to the glass. The clarity of pictures in the family album were also stunning. Despite all the extra work, the smart features run smoothly, thanks to LG's new Alpha 9 intelligent processor.

The cost of LG AI TV ranges from Rs 32,500 to Rs 29, 49,990 across sizes starting from 32 inches to 77 inches. To experience all the virtues, you need at least a 55-inch TV that costs about Rs 2.65 lakh. For most of us, that's a humongous amount to pay for a TV, even one that is hassle-free. But don't forget, this one can listen, think and answer.