Following on from one of our predictions for 2019 in which we predicted that Object Based Audio Delivery Formats Uptake Will Increase Significantly, at CES 2019 just a few days later there were 2 big announcements to reinforce that our prediction is on the right track. Panasonic announced the world’s first TV which has Dolby Atmos upward firing speakers as well as forward firing ones too and Samsung announced a partnership with Apple where they will have an Apple TV app in their smart TVs that will mean users won’t need to buy an Apple TV hardware unit.
In addition, Dolby used the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to push the growing take-up for its Dolby Atmos immersive sound technology as well as highlight the Dolby Dimension wireless headphones we referred to in our prediction, which Dolby introduced in the autumn last year.
Kevin Brennan, director of product at Dolby, told MESA at the show. “Dolby is everywhere: from the largest screened movie-going experience down to mobile phones and everything in between: televisions, computers, home theater equipment, gaming products and what we’re showing here is the breadth of support for these latest solutions.”
Panasonic GZ2000 OLED TV
Panasonic chose CES 2019 to announce their flagship TV for the year the GZ2000. In 55-inch and 65-inch screen sizes, it’s a 4K OLED screen with a sound feature set that is already being raved about in the consumer electronics world as it will be the first TV to include upward-firing Dolby Atmos speakers built in.
Hidden from sight when in front of the screen, there are two speakers inside this new TV built into the top of a column that runs up the TV’s rear, which fire the height channels up so that the sound will bounce off the ceiling and give the consumer height based immersive sound.
The concept takes the idea of Dolby Atmos soundbars that we discussed in our prediction article and moves in on and integrates Dolby Atmos into the TV and the sound features don’t stop there. The upward firing speakers are joined by one woofer at the bottom of the back panel and a large front-facing soundbar built into the screen’s bottom edge covering the left, centre and right channels.
Added to that, the sound system is being promoted with “tuned by Technics”, Panasonic’s specialist audio brand, and reading the specs this new sound conscious TV also boasts the proprietary JENO Engine again from Technics, which is designed for “accurate, refined audio” that has been included on previous Panasonic TVs and has been acknowledged as helpful by consumer electronics reviewers.
Those reviewers at CES 2019 were treated to a demo of this TV against last year’s model and it was described as “night and day”.
What Hifi continued… “Shattered shards of glass fly further into the distance, the noise of the football crowd fills the room and extra detail and space is revealed throughout the soundstage. Last year’s set sounds predictably flat and small by comparison”.
Forbes.com said “There’s enough control of this wall of sound, too, to ensure both that placement effects appear in their proper place - above left, for instance - and that music and ambient effects envelope you in an almost uncanny bubble of atmosphere. This was achieved during the CES demos, moreover, in far from ideal room conditions.”
This is great news to help the support and roll out of Dolby Atmos content into the consumer market as it provides another option for consumers to experience Dolby Atmos without having speakers all over the walls and ceiling of their living room.
There are no details on price and availability yet other than the strange situation that Panasonic only sells OLED TVs these days in the US via business to business channels although consumers can buy them in Canada. The good news is that we understand this situation appears to be restricted to the US.
Apple TV Coming To Samsung Smart TVs
This is an interesting collaboration, not least because Apple and Samsung are big rivals in other markets. In an announcement At CES 2019, Samsung and Apple have said that their 2018 and 2019 Samsung Smart TVs will be able to play iTunes movies and TV shows, along with AirPlay 2 support. We understand that last year's Samsung Smart TV models will get these new features via a firmware update, while all 2019 models will come with them built-in out of the box.
There will be a new, dedicated app for iTunes which will give access to users' movies and TV shows that they have purchased through Apple's service. The app will appear with the other apps in a carousel along with other services including Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video.
Apple TV has until now been limited to Apple hardware which has severely limited access to media available from Apple’s growing catalogue of content, especially when you compare it with all the various ways people can consume digital content today using smart TVs, set-top boxes, and mobile apps. Once this service starts appearing on Samsung Smart TVs, users will be able to log into their iTunes accounts and play movies and shows directly from their Samsung TV without needing an Apple hardware device.
If you don’t own a Samsung TV then all is not lost. Apple also announced support for its AirPlay 2 streaming system to TV manufacturers including LG, Sony and Vizio. AirPlay 2 will enable users to send content (stills, audio, video) from another Apple device to the big screen. It will also enable an iPhone to be used as a TV remote control. We also understand that Vizio and LG plan to further integrate Apple’s assistant Siri into their TVs.
This is very interesting news when you put it alongside the rumours of Apple’s plan to start a subscription service in 2019 to compete with Netflix, Amazon that might be free to users that own Apple hardware. According to a report by The Information, Apple plans to launch its TV subscription service in the US in the first half of this year with the service then being rolled out to more than 100 countries, in the following months, although Apple have declined to comment about this.
There have been reports that Apple has set a $1 billion budget for content acquisitions and programming for its original content, and is signing deals with the likes of Oprah Winfrey to do shows for its service as well as a deal with Sesame Workshop for children’s programming. We also understand that Apple will be rebooting the science-fiction anthology show Amazing Stories, as well as produce a space drama from Battlestar Galactica creator Ron Moore, and create a series with La La Land director Damien Chazelle. All of this would point to Apple aiming to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon in the OTT market.
Back to CES 2019 and there was a huge buzz on the show floor as to what this might look like following Tim Cook’s comments during a CNBC interview. It would make sense for Apple to broaden its business base across all its services including music, video, games. Apple could also leverage its heritage to innovate further by bringing together a range of services and tightly integrating them with its devices as only Apple can do.
Other CES News
Windows 10 Computer With Dolby Atmos - In other news from CES this year, Lenovo announced their new Yoga A940 all-in-one Windows 10 desktop PC featuring a Dolby Atmos speaker system and a large 27-inch optional 4K wide angle touchscreen display with Dolby Vision as well as Lenovo Smart Assist artificial intelligence-enabled features with a starting price of $2,349.99!
Hey Google - This slogan was apparently all over the CES Show. Google claims that 1 billion devices use the Google Assistant. Unlike Google, Amazon where apparently somewhat conservative compared to Google in terms of marketing, but chose CES to announce that the had sold 100 million Alexa-powered products.
It would seem that both companies have emerged as default voice assistants for TV manufacturers as well as other consumer electronic devices. Across the show most, if not all, announced support for both voice services. As a result voice assistants featured prominently in the keynotes during the press day for brands that included LG and Samsung. However, Samsung seems to be continuing to push its own voice assistant Bixby, but will clearly struggle to compete with Amazon and Google. The consensus amongst observers is that Voice will represent the next battleground in the way users interact with TVs.
We also understand that Vizio and LG plan to further integrate Apple’s assistant Siri into their TVs, so may be Apple will give Amazon and Google a run for their money when it comes to Voice Assistants.
AI Was Also Top Of The Show - The consumer tech industry appears to be embedding AI wherever they can. That said, at the moment the ways the industry are using AI could be considered as still quite limited and needs to get beyond simple algorithms providing users with basic personalised recommendations. .
LG is using AI to change the TV picture settings depending on the lighting conditions; such as brightening up a dark area in real time to improve the image. Samsung promises to adjust the audio playing through the speakers based upon the content. Personalised audio promises so much, which is something Dolby continues to pursue as well.
Wallpaper TVs On The Way - LG has come to successive CES events with prototypes of ‘wallpaper TV’ but this year it has promised to make one commercially available. The Signature OLED TV R (or ROLED) features a 65-inch, 0.18mm thin screen that can retract into its aluminium base, which doubles as a 4.2-channel Dolby Atmos soundbar.
Immersive Sound Mapping - Sony has announced that that they are developing a new immersive audio format. Currently just for music playback, 360 Reality Audio adds a spatial dimension based on the MPEG H 3D Audio format being developed by Germany’s Fraunhofer ISS. The system uses similar object-based surround techniques deployed in cinema systems like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but is designed specifically for music.
“360 Reality Audio makes it possible for artists and music creators to create a 360-degree musical experience by mapping sound sources such as vocals, chorus and instruments with positional information of distance and angle to suit their creative and artistic purpose.”
Their goal is to enhance the listeners experience music so that it “immerses them in sound from every direction.”
Check out Digital Trends’ Ryan Waniata’s description of the demos Sony were running at CES 2019.
Sony seems to be is getting the music industry on board to create, record and distribute tracks and concerts specially for the immersive format. Live Nation, Warner Music Group and the streaming service Deezer were listed. Sony even showed a reference model of a 360 Reality Audio speaker and we understand that there are plans to launch on Sony hardware including headphones at an unspecified time in the future. Finally, Sony is developing an app designed to adjust the audio for each individual based on a photographic analysis of their ear.
What Do You Think?
We think that all of this news in the consumer electronics and media sectors continues to confirm our 5th prediction for 2019 that Object Based Audio Delivery Formats Uptake Will Increase Significantly is on the money. What do you think? Do you see Dolby Atmos and other immersive formats taking off in the home media market or will this be around 3D TV moment that died almost as quickly as it appeared? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.