Bang & Olufsen’s latest high-end TV turns to face its audience

Turning to You.

Powered by article titled “Bang & Olufsen’s latest high-end TV turns to face its audience” was written by Samuel Gibbs, for on Thursday 8th May 2014 12.00 UTC

Danish design specialist Bang & Olufsen (B&O) thinks the TV is far from dead and is betting on a screen that moves to suit the watcher, rather than the other way around, as the future of home entertainment.

The new B&O BeoVision Avant, the company’s brand new ultra-high-definition 4K television, rotates, slides, extends and even moves towards the watcher wherever they happen to be sitting in the room.

“The way people live has changed. The main space in the home is no longer just a living room, it is also a dining room, a kitchen, a place of work all merged into one space,” said Marie Schmidt, vice president of product design and marketing for B&O, talking to the Guardian.

“At the same time, the TV is getting bigger, stealing more and more space and attention away from living. We believe technology shouldn’t dominate,” said Schmidt.

Hidden when not in use, attention-grabbing when switched on

The BeoVision Avant looks much like any other modern slim-bezel television when off, but when switched on speakers drop from underneath the screen and extend out in one smooth motion horizontally to become a soundbar mounted to the bottom of the screen.

At the same time the “orbit” stand swivels around, bringing the television closer to the viewer.

B&O BeoVision Avant
The television swivels on its motorised stand to face the viewer no matter where in the room they are. Photograph: B&O

The idea is that the TV and all the entertainment technology in the room is as compact and hidden in the background as possible when not in use, which extends to the components normally connected to a television like a Sky, Virgin Media or YouView box, or a PlayStation, Blu-ray player or Apple TV.

The set-top boxes can all be hidden away in a cupboard, but controlled using the BeoVision Avant’s sleek aluminium remote, which is pre-programmed to allow full control of thousands of devices. There are other third-party systems that do a very similar thing, like Logitech’s Harmony universal remote system, but the difference is that the TV picks up the controls and beams them to the Sky box or Apple TV hidden away out of sight.

The motorised Orbit stand allows the BeoVision Avant to adapt and face the person who is watching the TV. Watching positions around the room can be programmed into the TV, so if the watcher is on the sofa the TV can rotate to face it, but if watching TV from the dining table, or the kitchen the TV can automatically rotate to give the best viewing angle.

‘Everyone can get what they want with one click’

B&O’s room adjustments go beyond the TV too, as long as everything else you own is made by B&O. Moving the TV’s orientation will change the pattern of the speakers around the room, for instance, adjusting the left and right channels to always be on the left and right of the screen, even if that means using one of the speakers at the back of the room.

B&O BeoVision Avant
The remote supplied with the BeoVision Avant is manufactured out of a solid block of aluminium and can control a plethora of other entertainment devices. Photograph: B&O

Three personalised buttons on the remote can also automatically adjust the TV, switch channels, media sources and sound levels with one touch.

“There are three buttons on the remote which can control and adjust everything. One for Mum, one for Dad and one for the kids. Everyone can get what they want with one click,” said Steve Devonshire, a product training manager for B&O.

While B&O states that its products aren’t about technology, statistics and numbers, the BeoVision Avant is certainly future-proofed and packed with ports, connections and specifications.

‘People change their televisions every six to seven years on average’

The 55in LCD screen is 4K, with four-times the resolution of current high-definition televisions and local backlight dimming for enhanced contrast – something only high-end televisions currently feature. At the back it has five HDMI slots for connecting everything from games consoles to a Chromecast, it is smart with upgradable software, something B&O says it is committed to keeping up to date, and has built-in video recording functions.

“People change their televisions every six to seven years on average, and we do not know how technology is going to change over that period, so we have put as much technology into the TV as possible to future-proof it, while being able to upgrade the software like adding Spotify and Deezer music services,” explained Schmidt.

B&O BeoVision Avant
Eight speakers are hidden in behind the screen and in the drop-down soundbar that smoothly appears and extends when the screen is switched on. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Powerful, integrated speakers are one the biggest differentiators for the BeoVision Avant over its competition. The TV has eight separate speakers, which create three channels of sound – centre, left and right – which B&O calls three-channel stereo. The idea is that speech and dialogue is much clearer when projected out of a single speaker in the centre of the screen rather than through both left and right stereo speakers, which results in interference and a muddying of vocals.

The BeoVision Avant goes beyond just built-in speakers and into the domain of multi-channel home theatre, connecting to up to eight more wireless B&O speakers as well as 10 additional wired speakers, making a grand total of a 21-speaker surround-sound set-up possible for those with deep pockets.

Bought by few but coveted by many

The 55in BeoVision Avant costs £5,995 and will be available in B&O stores today, however that only includes the television itself. The stands, like the floor-standing rotating Orbit stand, have to be bought separately, costing upwards of £695.

B&O BeoVision Avant
A tabletop motorised stand is also available that moves towards the viewer, hunching back down when not in use. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Buyers have always paid a premium for B&O equipment, but the BeoVision Avant is almost competitively priced for an ultra high-definition 4K television, which generally start at around £4,000.

The BeoVision Avant introduces some interesting concepts around motion, automatic adjustment and attempting to stop technology dominating modern living spaces. This is a very high-end television that will be bought by few but coveted by many.

Are curved TVs just a marketing gimmick? Definitely © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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