Samsung Smart TV

Lytro's Light Field camera grabbing consumers’ attention

A Smarter TV | Samsung.com/smarttv | $400 to $4,500

Studies have shown that owners of smart TVs generally don’t use the apps that are filling up their screens. Samsung’s revamped Smart Hub should help change that.

The problem has always been software that was tough to navigate, clunky and well, ugly, with its Fisher-Price-like design.

But that was so last year. And Samsung has since grown up.

Its new software, first introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, and now available in its new sets (and offered as an upgrade to older units), impresses with its clean interface and fast response rates.

It needed faster processing speeds inside the TVs (now three times faster) in order to offer gesture and voice controls, as well as a search function that enables content to be found across a variety of streaming services and apps.

Content, including films, TV shows and music, appear on one of five screens that can be swiped, similar to a smartphone. Photos can also be manipulated and resized using hand gestures. A built-in camera enables Skype video calls, while Facebook and Twitter feeds are easily accessed.

The overall look has become more streamlined to fit the aesthetics of Samsung’s smartphones and tablets — mobile devices that easily communicate with the TVs by becoming glorified remote controls or another platform to play what’s on the bigscreen while users roam around the house.

And that might just be the key to getting more consumers to use the devices: Treat them like another mobile device.

In Plain Sight
BlueLounge.com | $30

Hide away the unsightly nuisance of cords, adaptors and power strips with the CableBox Mini, meant for small clusters and 4-socket surge protectors. A variety of bright colors make it suitable for desktops, with rubber feet preventing the box from slipping. A larger version is
also available.

Time Keeper
Qlocktwo.com | $1,100 and $600

Part art piece, part clock, Biegert & Funk’s products use a typographical display instead of numbers to write out the time. For example, “it is half past eight” for 8:30, with letters lit by LEDs.

The Qlocktwo Classic is 18×18 inches, and can be hung on a wall or set up as a freestanding timepiece. The smaller Qlocktwo Touch is 5×5 inches and meant for desktops or night stands and comes with a built-in alarm clock. All come in a variety of bright colors and languages.

Biegert & Funk also offers a watch and downloadable app for iPhones, featuring the same matrix of letter design.

Docking Speakers
USA.Philips.com | $450-$800

Most portable speakers that connect to your mobile devices are dull with their rectangular shapes, but Philips’ set of SoundSpheres resemble eggplants complete with a glossy lacquer sheen — but in a good way — and boast an impressively rich sound with deep and powerful bass levels that provide three-dimensional sound through the two speakers. With built-in AirPlay technology, they also wirelessly play music from iTunes through the Fidelio docking station.

Camera Ready: Tools you need to take better pictures:

In Focus
Lytro.com | $500

The Lytro Light Field camera is grabbing consumers’ attention not only for its overall tubular design but for its lexibility for manipulating images. Utilizing sensors that shoot a single image with multiple depths of field, the device enables users to choose what element should be in focus after the image has been transferred to a computer.

Focus Twist
iTunes.com | $2

You can buy a pricey Lytro or spend two bucks to try out Focus Twist, an app from Arqball that attempts to replicate the same effects on an iPhone by compositing multiple images and offering tools to alter the focus. Developers say the app works best for food, fashion and architecture or scenes with multiple elements to focus on, with the closest object being just 3.5 inches away. Images are sharable on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

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