In a move that some will consider to be long overdue, Skype has announced that its service can now be accessed on selected televisions. Earlier this year, the leader in internet communications teamed up with manufacturers Panasonic, Samsung and LG to deliver living room-to-living room contact through means of a compatible HD webcam.
Using the TV to make calls should be just as easy (but likely more embarrassing) as what we’re used to, especially considering that the standard features will also be carried over to the new service.
This collaboration will undoubtedly take Skype to another platform and into the technological heart of the home, which will ultimately reinvent the role of the television as we know it.
Skype on TV delivers many of the standard features, including free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls, calls to landline or mobile phones, the option to receive inbound calls via a user’s online Skype number and participation in voice conference calls with up to 24 other parties.
“Skype has made video calling easy, free and accessible. Today, 34% of all Skype-to-Skype calls include video. In addition, the number one reason why Skype users enjoy video calling is because it makes them feel more connected to friends and family,” Skype chief executive officer Josh Silverman says.
“This is very exciting for us. TVs are a logical and natural platform for video communications. They will no longer be just the centre of people’s entertainment experience, but have the potential to be the centre of people’s communications experience.”
The new service will enable consumers to make voice and video calls over Skype on Panasonic’s line of Viera-Cast HDTVs and Samsung LED 7000 and 8000 series models of HDTVs.
In order to conduct a Skype video call, a webcam which is sold as a separate accessory, is simply plugged into the television. The camera includes a special microphone system that can easily pick up sound from couch-distance and it will also deliver up to 720p high definition video quality, depending on the consumer’s internet bandwidth.
Panasonic Viera group marketing manager Matt Pearce says the camera was specifically developed to work with the TV and maximise the performance of the Skype service in a typical living room.
“The camera itself has four built-in microphones that can pick up people’s voices accurately and the camera has been specially designed with a wide field of vision so we can get all of your friends and family in the room in one go,” he says.
“The service itself essentially replicates the traditional Skype service that you would be familiar with – it’s very simple, quick and easy. If you’re watching normal TV and the phone rings, a notification comes up on the screen so you can answer it.”
According to Matt, custom installers should make the most of this new feature by ensuring a wired connection to the TV is available, as well as a solid internet connection. In turn, these two factors will combine to give the best user experience.
“The camera itself plugs into one of the USB ports, so there aren’t any special requirements necessary for the installation of a Skype-compatible TV. I think the key point here is that the TV is no longer that passive living room device that is suited to impressing home theatres. This new service changes that dedicated room,” he says.
“With Skype, the TV turns into engaging content, so you can make your own content with the aid of friends and family. That in turn changes the viewer’s mindset, including how you position the products and how people use the technology. I think it really brings the TV back into the living room, in a more inviting way than perhaps we have seen before.”