A look at the latest curve ball in television technology
The creators behind the industry’s most cash driven consumer electronics seem to always be in a constant state of change. The common television, robust in its transformative history is definitely no exception to this rule. Since the 1920s, the instrumental device has undergone visual shifts from black and white to colour and now ultimately three dimensions. It has gone through aesthetic changes from bulky and weighty to near paper-thin sizes. Over the years it has been a constant challenge for the buyer to distinguish the gimmicks from the innovative in the yearly alterations.
This year Samsung intends to throw yet another curve at consumers, literally, with its new line of curved Ultra High Definition (UHD) shaped televisions. What’s notable, according to the Korean giant, is that curves are what people may prefer without even knowing the real reasons why.
“The big question that has always been around is, we know that people tend to prefer curved objects, but why is it that they tend to prefer them more?” says Oshin Vartanian, a neuroscientist at the University of Toronto and a leading expert in curved design. “In earlier studies, when people were asked to indicate what they liked, they were also asked to indicate why they like them. Quite frequently, the response you got was ‘well it’s because of the way it makes me feel,’ they were kind of feeling-orientated responses.”
According to Vartanian, the positive reaction that comes from seeing a form of curvature on any object is psychological at its core, a point that researchers have gone to great lengths to prove through the use of MRI scanners that indicate a spike in the brain’s emotion network upon seeing a curve.
It’s that debatable argument between curvilinear versus standard rectilinear designs that certainly wasn’t lost at Samsung’s 55-inch 9000 series UHD TV launch. Upon entering Toronto’s Galleria Italia, with all its curved wood paneling and natural lighting, it was evident the complimentary environment was cleverly chosen to drive the point home: a curved TV is undeniably attractive.
“By curving the screen we improve a couple of things,” says Alain Leclair, a product trainer for Samsung Canada. “First of all the viewing angle, so if you’re watching a TV, when you normally watch a standard LCD panel you’ll see a colour shift, so by bringing the screen a little bit towards you helps reduce this effect to provide a better viewing experience.”
Leclair says that bringing the two sides of the screen towards the viewer provides a more direct view, which in turn creates a more uniform contrast. Combine that with Samsung’s proprietary Auto Depth Enhancer, which allows for a greater sense of depth for an almost near 3D image without glasses, there’s a good case being made for the curve.
The debate, however, comes from whether or not the technology is suitable for home users who are used to watching television from a distance. Whether or not such conditions hamper the benefit of a curved design is a valid question. A sense of immersion is only gained from the wrap around effect when the viewer is up close. This was certainly made clear as the farther the distance one was from a standard set; the less of a visual impact there was compared to a standard TV.
Beyond the curve, other features on the 9000 were also boasted, ones that have become a commonality with television sets today as it relates to smart technology. Users can find themselves using standard apps such as YouTube, Netflix and Hulu straight from their TV sets. In addition to that, Samsung has allowed a user’s voice and general body to act as the controller through motion and audible controls. As Leclair skillfully demonstrated with his finger pointed at the built in pop-up camera included with all sets, it appeared like the perfect feature for the television aficionado and lazy couch potato alike.
Despite the extra features, it was the curve that remained as the highlight of the event. Personal viewing angles and distances aside, the curved display created an ideally beautiful view of how a television ought to project its images. Until more sets enter the living room, it will be hard to make a judgment call as to whether the prices match up to the visual benefit, but from the current vantage point, the curve may be far more than just another gimmick.
Words By. Noel Ransome