When Samsung announced its Smart TV app competition, the company decided to get somebody to help judge the entries who was making some pretty smart moves on TV themselves. Cue The Gadget Show co-presenter Pollyanna Woodward to step forward and put all of her tech knowledge to the test - or at least the test of others. Speaking to Pocket-lint, the latest face of Channel Five’s top show told us what she thought about the winners and what Smart TV is all about for her.
“Mixing the convenience of the Internet with your TV is the obvious evolution and Smart TV is another great example of how technology seems to be converging,” she opened down the phone from her new flat apparently filled with “a bit of a mix of gadgets” at the moment.
“I’ve got an Xbox Kinect, a B&W Zeppelin Air - which I just love the sound on - a home cinema set up and, well, I just really wanted a big TV, so I got a 50-inch Samsung 3D model and, if you really want to test me, I’m pretty sure it’s an 8000 series.”
Very nice indeed, and it’s on such a screen that she and the panel of judges chose Astra Recommendations as the UK winning Smart TV app out of the 76-strong field in the Samsung Smart TV Challenge. It’s a content recommendation and video-on-demand system which offers both automated intelligent suggestions as well as an easy mechanism both for sharing on Facebook and finding out what your Facebook friends are into as well.
“All of the judges were very clear that Astra Recommendations was the winner. As a matter of fact, we all chose the same top five entries in pretty much the same order,” confessed Woodward.
“There were lots of good ideas but, for most, the implementation wasn’t right. Some of them you knew just wouldn’t work and, as everyone knows, any app that doesn’t work ends up getting deleted very quickly. What we liked about the winners were that they were just obviously useful the minute you tried them.
“One of my other real favourites though was TV Darts Show. It’s just a simple game where you get to use your remote control to throw but it’s just really, really good fun. I’ll bet everyone will have one of those moments where they come in late or maybe there’s nothing on and they end up hooked into a hour long session of TV Darts Show.”
While the winning developers picked up a cool £60,000 and the third place entries 10 per cent of that, the competition still didn’t attract anyone developing apps to leverage the 3D element of Samsung’s home cinema technology.
“3D seems to be like Marmite,” explains Woodward. “It’s got a long way to go both with the glasses and the content and it seems to be the same for the app world as well.”
Equally, what’s currently playing on Pollyanna’s iPhone as the app of choice is fairly humble as well.
“Sky+ is the one I use most often. I’m rarely at home, so it’s nice to have plenty of programmes I like to sit down and watch when I do get a few minutes to myself. The trouble is that I’m recording more than I can watch at the moment. My Sky box is stuffed full of CSI: New York.”
Whether she gets to sit down and watch it or not, Woodward is still convinced that, despite the rise of personal viewing, there will always be a place for TV. “TV is for home and tablets are for taking around”, is her fundamental look at the development although there’s certainly an argument out for the likes of the iPad or even Vuzix glasses as what some describe as “the fourth space”; with television distinct as a shared entertainment experience. In fact, even Steve Jobs first showed off the use of the iPad on stage by sitting on a sofa. To be fair to Woodward though, that could be more about web browsing than watching video.
What she did tell us for certain is that if you’re going to be consuming content at one of The Gadget Show’s presenters’ gaffs, then there’s only one place to be.
“Jason, without a shadow of a doubt. He’s got an amazing setup up with three screens in his gaming den. He totally immerses himself. There’s 3D everywhere and an awesome Sonos system all around the house.”
Although Woodward seems well on the way to getting in as deep as Bradbury, there are still some limits to how far she’ll go in the name of technology.
“I haven’t got an iPad 2. I’m not sure about the second one. I think they’re lovely devices and a great idea but I find the screens a little too small. I’ve got a 13-inch MacBook Pro instead that I prefer. My old iPad just sits on the shelf, really.
“The thing is, I just don’t feel the need to be the first. In fact, I can’t think of anything that could make me get in those queues that we saw outside the Apple shops at launch.”
All the same, with so much apparent love for the high end white plastic, should we have Woodward pinned as an Apple fanboy? Fortunately, it seems the answer is no.
“I think Apple are good. They do everything they do really well but PCs are still good too. I’m playing with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc at the moment and the interface is fantastic. It’s lightening quick. I’m actually quite tempted to stick with it.”
The winning apps of the Samsung Smart TV Challenge will be appearing on the company’s platform in 2011 which you can access if you own any of the Samsung 2010 Blu-ray player range, a Blu-ray home theatre systems and the majority of TVs 40 inches or bigger.