People Can Now Simultaneously Watch Different Shows on the Same TV | Innovation | Smithsonian
Current Issue
November 2014 magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

People Can Now Simultaneously Watch Different Shows on the Same TV

OLED technology allows up to 10 people to watch different shows on the same TV set

smithsonian.com

Credit: Samsung

During the previous decade, televisions bedazzled us by going wider, flatter and sharper. Now, a new breed of splashy TVs about to make their way into living rooms is seeking to not only impress in the looks department, but to also reshape our viewing habits.

OLED, heralded as the next evolution in home entertainment, outdoes current high end TV sets by boasting better picture quality than plasma, while being more energy efficient than LED LCDs—all in a lightweight, svelte design. The technology is also the first to enable screens to bend and curve so that, as LG, the earliest brand out of the gate with a mass-produced flexible OLED screen product, insists, “any hint of visual distraction” is removed, thus creating the “ultimate immersive viewing experience.”

Rival Samsung, in touting its recently unveiled 55″ 3D high-def S9C OLED TV set, is seeking to really up the ante with a special feature called “Multi-View,” which enables 2 people to enjoy different shows on the same TV simultaneously. For around $9,000, it’s almost like having 2 TV sets in one and essentially eliminating the potential for those unavoidable squabbles over who gets to watch what at a given moment. The teenage son can now enjoy the latest MMA match instead of wrestling with a sibling over exclusive rights on the remote control. Husbands and wives can sit close together on the couch while each being able to watch a favorite program. It sounds almost zen.

In “multi-view” mode, the display projects programming from various channels, which to the naked eye looks like one super-imposed blend. To receive signals from one of the concurrent programs, the user puts on a pair of special 3D glasses that locks on a specific program while actively filtering out the visual signals meant for the other person. The effect is achieved through the same physics of 3D technology; distinct visuals are flashed separately to the right eye and the left eye (that’s why basic 3D glasses have a blue filtering lens and a red one). The high rate of flickering between the two creates the three-dimensional effect, though sometimes the process can cause an image to leak into the other, an effect referred to as “ghosting.”

OLED monitors refresh at a rate 1,000 times faster than LCDs. And with the potential for “cross-talk” complications minimized, entire programs, movies and events can be flickered rapidly to numerous parties in either HD or 3D at full 1080 resolution. By pressing a button located on the left side of their 3D glasses,viewers can switch seamlessly between the various feeds as the accompanying audio is played into the built-in volume-adjustable earbuds.

Reviews for the technology have been mixed. Techlicious blogger Dan O’Halloran raved about the technology, praising the display’s picture quality as “impressive” and describing the imagery as “sharp and clear, the colors vibrant, and blacks deep.” Consumer Reports, however, points out that one of the major drawbacks with watching television in this mode is that you can’t adjust the picture quality. ”We couldn’t optimize the picture and found it to be over-sharpened,” notes the writer. Another criticism was that “resolution was visibly reduced when watching a 3D movie in the Multiview mode.”

Of course, it still all boils down to how actual couples take to the idea after an evening spent divvying up their screen. Reviewing the S9C for the Daily Mail, writer Ben Hatch and his wife Dinah had the kind of experience that made for a predictable story line.

At first, “it is utterly blissful. I could enjoy watching TV with my beloved wife without having to watch any of her unbeloved dross,” he writes.  

She concurred, revealing that “At first, both of us revelled in our new-found TV independence. I looked over at Ben on the sofa, his face deadly serious as he absorbed the horrors of World War II, and felt pleased we had avoided the usual channel wrangle,” she writes.

But while their initial impressions were positive, Ben admitted to feeling  ”lonely” and Dinah, being wary of welcoming something so disruptive into their home, ultimately gave the feature a thumbs down. “Overall, this experience is not great for our relationship,” she concludes. ”I noticed that Ben and I were sitting further apart on the sofa than normal.”

The takeaway, it seems, is that perhaps television is about a lot more than what’s on the screen. Mutual viewing, which has long served as a catalyst for bonding and quality time, is as ingrained as sharing supper together. And maybe those rare instances when DVRing a show won’t suffice (like when two live events are being broadcast simultaneously) should be thought of as a valuable opportunity for couples, roommates and siblings alike to cultivate one of the most neccesary relationship skills: compromise.

About Tuan C. Nguyen
Tuan C. Nguyen

Tuan C. Nguyen is a Silicon Valley-based journalist specializing in technology, health, design and innovation. His work has appeared in ABCNews.com, NBCNews.com, FoxNews.com, CBS' SmartPlanet and LiveScience.

Read more from this author

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus