Today, Chinese TV maker Skyworth announced that it is launching a new range of televisions in South Africa. What actually sets this range apart from its existing offerings, you ask? According to their presentation at a press event in Johannesburg this morning, the new TVs include “artificial intelligence” (AI), and moreover, are part of the company’s “artificial intelligence of things” (AIoT) ecosystem. Which is playing a little fast and loose with the marketing speak, if you ask us.
Skyworth (which previously sold its TVs in South Africa under the Sinotech brand) was the first company to introduce Android TVs in South Africa. Previous Skyworth TVs had built-in Google capabilities, including Google Assistant… which is exactly what the new range supports. Google’s voice-powered helper is what it is using to make a claim for built-in AI. Plus, now you can use the microphone in the remote instead of your phone to bark commands at your new digital butler.
AI’m not sure
Just to clear things up: AI refers to computing systems that are able to make decisions in a similar way that humans do. In other words, they can take input, assess it, and respond accordingly. In the case of Google Assistant, this translates into the ability to understand natural-language queries and offer meaningful responses. IoT, meanwhile, refers to a wide range of (usually) internet-connected devices that are also able to speak to one another (think smart appliances, alarm sensors, cameras and the like).
So, when Skyworth says its new TVs include both AI and AIoT, what it seems to be trying to say is that its new TVs can both accept voice commands, and function as smart hubs for smart home devices. Which is rather handy… but which most people will already be able to do from their phone… or from a Google Home speaker. Really, what Skyworth’s offering is the biggest screen-packing Google Home device you’ve ever seen (that’s not an official Google product).
Smart devices aren’t that prevalent in South Africa, but kudos to Skyworth for trying to get out in front of the trend. Having a smart assistant built into your TV could help future-proof your home, and could save you the trouble (and expense) of trying to find Google Home (or Amazon Alexa) products locally.
But we have to wonder how many tech-savvy South Africans have already sidestepped these problems by buying any of the Android set-top boxes available from a variety of brands, some of which also offer Google Assistant, or just buying Google Home minis from local importers. Still there is the advantage of offering a microphone in their remote controls so users don’t have to use their phones to summon the assistant… and perhaps having Google Assistant built-in to their TV will make more South Africans use it. We’ll wait. We’ll see.
Also, in our experience, Skyworth TVs offer a good balance between price and features. So, we’ll reserve judgment on its new devices until we’ve tested one, but for now we could do with less of the hyperbolic marketing speak… and more info on pricing and availability.