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TV invades new spaces

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Despite the challenge of video-on-demand services on mobile devices, the ever-evolving formats of TV ensures it maintains a hold on viewers, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

A snapshot of global TV sales suggests that the format has stagnated. In the first half of last year,  according to retail research organisation GfK, 104.7 million TVs were sold globally, down 3.7 per cent on the same period a year before.

However, a very different picture emerges when one drills down into regions, formats and demographics. While some formats and traditional ways of watching are dying, others are rising rapidly.

A few startling examples were presented last week in Lisbon at the IFA Global Press Conference 2017, an event that previews Europe’s largest consumer electronics show, IFA, taking place in Berlin in December.

“In Italy, 25 per cent of TV sets are located in the kitchen,” said Jürgen Boyny, Global director consumer electronics at GfK. “This means there is a market for small screen sizes and for lots of different viewing behaviours.”

The statistic may well be indicative of social activity revolving around the kitchen, but it also suggests growth in new locations as new formats of device and new forms of content make it appropriate for other spaces.

“This creates potential for multi-ownership, people buying another TV for children’s bedrooms, holiday apartments or even the kitchen.”

The numbers show that the trend is already taking off in some European countries. In 171-million households with TV on the continent, 321-million TV sets are installed. The dubious honour of the biggest appetite for multiple screens goes to Norway, with an average of 3.1 TV sets per viewing household.

However, the assumption that this is a factor of the many months of darkness in Scandinavia doesn’t apply: Norway’s neighbours don’t feature on the list. Next comes the United Kingdom with 2.7 sets per household, and France with 1.8. Both Germany and Italy boast 1.5 sets per household, and Poland features with 1.2.

This is all good news for the industry, says Boyny, as it means there is extensive market potential for selling multiple TVs.

The real opportunity, however, lies in the growth of specific formats of TV, and this applies in South Africa too.

“We are seeing sustainable growth into bigger screen sizes, 55-inch and above, but 32-inch still has the biggest share and is still growing in units.”

It is these smaller TVs that are invading new spaces, as they are idea for kitchens, children’s bedrooms and other smaller areas of the home beyond the living room. Smaller screen sizes, below 32-inch, have become a must-have for the many holiday apartments in southern Europe, meaning that these formats are seeing substantial demand in Mediterranean countries.

However, there are three specific trends driving growth within specific segments in Europe: large-format TV sets above 60-inches, which have grown from 1 per cent of TV sales in 2014 to a projected 4 per cent this year; 4K or Ultra High Definition (UHD) TVs, which have grown dramatically from a mere 2 per cent to 30 per cent; and the jewel in the crown, Smart TV, which has grown more slowly but off a much higher base, from 43 per cent to 53 per cent.

The latter is beginning to make an impact in South Africa as well, and is allowing for video-on-demand, like Netflix and ShowMax, to migrate from mobile devices to TV sets. The challenge, says Boyny, is to “bring the younger generation into the world of the big screen” by showing them that platforms like YouTube offer a better experience in this format.

“What is next in TV is continuous development, driven by new content and easier access to content. At present, for example, it is not easy to type in a website address on the remote control, and we need easier access. Consumers want more than traditional content, and they will get apps for different and new kinds of content on Smart TV.

“A connected TV should be more than only entertainment; it should support people in their daily lives.  If a child is sick, why is it not possible to follow a class on a big screen at home? For older people, why is there no fitness or health app on the TV? This is also the future of TV.”

As if in response to Boyny’s call, Michael Zöller, Samsung vice president and head of visual display for Europe, asked the audience at the IFA press conference: “How can the TV integrate seamlessly into modern homes and lifestyle?”

He had an answer, too: “For example, making a TV that is not only a TV anymore, but a piece of art.

With that, Samsung unveiled the latest version of its upcoming Frame, which has been shown in prototype since early this year. It is an ultra-thin large-screen TV that looks like a picture frame hanging on a wall. When not being viewed, its display transforms into a work of art – more than a hundred have been curated by Samsung – so that it blends almost seamlessly into walls already decorated with paintings.

The frame itself can be customised to fit in with a colour scheme, and the display will be matte rather than glossy, so that it looks more like a painting or photo than a screen image. It is due to be launched in Europe by the end of May, and will roll out across the rest of the world in the following weeks.

It won’t be cheap, but it will be yet another format that will ensure the ongoing health of the market for TV sets.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Meet the ambassador to the future

Tilly Lockey, 14, lost her hands as a toddler, but sees it as a massive opportunity to embrace technology. She chatted with ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK about the human of tomorrow.

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Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

It is a description that defines 14-year-old Tilly Lockey: She lost her hands at the age of 15 months, and now uses bionic hands to show the world how to overcome disability.

That could easily read as an advertisement for a prosthetics company, but Tilly refuses to be defined by marketing messages. She has not only embraced what is supposed to be a disability, but wants to become nothing less than an ambassador to the future.

Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

That is in effect what she is achieving by pushing the boundaries of what is possible with artificial hands. It means that, eventually, she will have more capabilities built into her body than most able-bodied humans can imagine. She collaborates closely with Open Bionics, a start-up that is using 3D printing to create low-cost prosthetics with high-tech capabilities.

“I have very high hopes for the future,” she said during a chat on the sidelines of the SingularityU Summit at Kyalami north of Johannesburg. From Newcastle-on-Tyne in the United Kingdom, she was at the Summit as a guest speaker, chaperoned by her father Adam and sister Tia. 

“When I started working with Open Bionics, I wanted it to include lighting, music, Bluetooth, a projector in my palm, all over-optimistic things. But then I feel that is not too far away, and then a disability would turn into and enhancement of normal human hands. I’m really excited about it.

“I know there’s a couple of things they are working on right now, like trying to get the built-in battery thinner, because it’s hard to get overcoats and jackets over it, so they are trying to get the hands slimmer. They’re working on haptic feedback, to give a sense of touch of vibration, which tells me of I have a good grip on something. It could be coming soon. These hands I’m using now were made in the past five years. In another five years, I think we’ll have all of it.”

The hands in question are called Hero Arms, which its creators, Open Bionics, say is “the world’s first clinically approved 3D-printed bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics”.

Click here to read more about the development of Open Bionics’s Hero Arms.

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How Tilly Lockey became a Hero

Part 2 of ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK’s interview with Tilly Lockey explores her amazing career.

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Picture courtesy SingularityU South Africa 2019 Summit

This is the second part of this series of articles. To start from the beginning, click here.

Tilly Lockey was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Strain B when she was 15 months old.

Her mother spotted the tell-tale signs one day in 2007: a fast-spreading skin rash that looks like pinpricks, along with symptoms like lethargy and bruising. She was rushed to hospital, but the bacterial poisoning spread so aggressively, doctors gave Tilley no chance of survival. They had to make a quick decision to amputate her hands to save her life.

Twelve years later, her future truly came into focus: “I was surprised with really cool Alita: Battle Angel bionic Hero Arms and went on the blue carpet at the world premiere of the movie with Rosa Salazar and director James Cameron.”

That pivotal moment in her life would not have been possible without the intensive efforts of her mother, Sara, to raise funds to buy something better than the metal prosthetics issued by the National Health Service in the UK. She increased Tilley’s profile with a campaign to “Give Tilley a Hand”, and today works as a fundraiser and events organiser for the Meningitis Now support group. Her involvement in an event meant she was unable to join Tilley on her trip to South Africa last week, when she spoke at the SingularityU Summit. After coming off stage, Tilley told us that Sara was her biggest inspiration in her life, and the closest to a role model.

“I’m usually a speaker at her events. I tell everyone my story and what I’m doing now and give these kids inspiration, because they often feel they can’t do anything because of what Meningitis did to them.

“I am home schooled now, which is pretty cool, because I’m able to have a career and get educated at the same time. I feel I can do a lot of things that friends can’t do. I can take a whole class on an aeroplane. I have a great time traveling and meeting so many inspiring people who are making a difference in the world.”

The form of Mengingitis that attacked her leaves hidden scars and issues that only become apparent years later. She is almost absurdly cheerful about the challenges that have faced her.

“I personally figured out that my left leg had stopped growing. I’m still finding out things it has caused, but you survive. At least I’m here and I’m alive.”

It does help that she’s comfortable in the spotlight, happy to give interviews, and eager to show what she can do with her bionic hands.

“I want to go into public speaking a lot more, and it could be an option as career. I want it to continue because it’s a lot of fun, and I feel I’ve got a story to share. If I can inspire people to change the world, I will. “

Her travels this year will still take her to Barcelona, Jakarta and New York. In the Big Apple, she will accept a humanitarian award, and intends “to give a funky speech”.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, she will take part in a fashion catwalk and do a makeup tutorial live. She learned to do makeup with one of her bionic hands when she fractured her right elbow in a fall at school

“I got makeup for Christmas and wanted to play with it, and got the idea of doing it with an open hand. It took a lot of perseverance and patience, but after studying how to do it, I was able to recreate a full makeup routine using one hand. It wasn’t a great situation at the time, but now I’m happy it happened because it got me into doing what I do now.”

What she is doing with makeup is remarkable in its own right. She gives tutorials on YouTube, where she says she is “kinda new”, as she has “only around 16,000 followers”. That may well soon expand into cooking videos.

In other words, everything is an opportunity: “I could be sad, just sit on my bed and cry, or I can live my life and realise what I’ve got: these amazing bionic Hero Arms.

“All I want to do is help give people confidence in themselves, accept who they are, accept their scars and everything about them. That they don’t have to impress everybody and just be themselves.”

Read more in the third article of the series about how family remains at the centre of Tilly’s life.

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