Tuesday, 05 January 2021 13:03

Hisense launches 2021 Smart TV range with Google Assistant, hands-free voice control and Kayo partnership


Hisense’s smart TV operating system interface is called VIDAA, and in its 2021 ULED TV models it is upgraded to VIDAA U5, dubbed as the fastest version yet, adding Google Assistant to the existing Amazon Alexa support, with select models to offer “hands-free” voice control, with new apps and streaming content coming including Kayo for sports lovers - and separately, Hisense TVs powered by Android are also coming.

The VIDAA U5 Smart TV OS from Hisense is coming in its 2021 ULED TVs models, which is billed as being available “across the majority of Hisense’s 2021 Australian TV range”.

It will “feature a number of key performance improvements and updates that aim to enhance the user experience and make TV viewing easier than ever before”, along with “a range of new apps including leading sports streaming platform, Kayo, thanks to a new content partnership”.

Andre Iannuzzi, Head of Marketing at Hisense Australia, said: “Australians’ use of smart devices has accelerated this year, particularly with connectivity and content becoming a key part of our lives as we spent more time at home with family, enjoying the entertainment and light relief offered by our Smart TVs.

“At Hisense Australia we strive to continually improve and update our smart TV offering to ensure our customers have the best user experience possible. 2021 is no exception and we are very pleased to be introducing VIDAA U5. From advanced voice control functionality to the addition of new apps that will be a gateway to hours of new content, VIDAA U5 aims to make TV viewing easier and more enjoyable than ever,” Iannuzzi added.

The promise of an “optimised user experience”.

Hisense says “improvements to the system’s interface, performance and speed will significantly enhance ease of use, with VIDAA U5 boasting a 20% faster launcher load time of just 1.7 seconds [compared to the previous VIDAA U4 OS], smoother scrolling and a new optimised universal search. A more compact and visual layout also improves the user experience by exposing more content on the screen to decrease the user’s browsing time”.

Chris Mayer, the Product Specialist and National Retail Training Manager at Hisense Australia said: “We anticipate the faster, more responsive OS interface offered by VIDAA U5 will be positively received by content-hungry Aussies, especially considering there will be even more entertainment and sports content to browse on the platform in the new year”.

New apps

We’re told that “the first of many new apps to feature on VIDAA U5 next year will be Kayo, in line with Hisense’s long-term passion for sport. Boasting the biggest line-up of Australian and international sports, Kayo offers new and live sports content as well as historic replays, meaning sports fans can keep up with every try, goal and big hit from throughout the years.

“A new VIDAA SmartRemote Mobile App is also on the horizon for both iOS and Android mobile smartphone users. SmartRemote will allow TV owners to control their TV using their smart phone instead of a traditional remote. This can come in handy in busy households where remotes may occasionally be misplaced, ensuring no one misses out on watching their favourite programs or movies when they want to”.

Presumably Hisense will inform Australians of the other apps that are due to arrive this year, which hopefully will see more of the free-to-air catch-up TV services and other streaming content services.

Completely hands-free voice control for Amazon Alexa

Hisense is also talking up its ability to make voice control “even easier” with the introduction of far-field technology, to “only be available on Hisense ULED TVs from the 2021 product range”, and the technology only works with Amazon Alexa, and not Google Assistant.

We’re told that this feature “effectively allows TV users to make commands using Amazon Alexa completely hands-free, without needing to press a microphone button on a remote. This is because the TVs themselves will have integrated microphones that are equipped with sophisticated voice recognition technology that can pick up on commands across the room.

“The way far-field is designed means users are be able to use their regular tone of voice to carry out tasks like switching the TV on and off, turning up the volume or changing from one Stan program to another, without having to lift a finger.

“Australians can take control of more than just their TV thanks to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which will come built-in on Hisense’s 2021 TVs with VIDAA U5”.

Chris Mayer added: “This update means that your TV can be used as your main smart home hub. This means you can use it to turn your smart lights on, check your schedule for the week and ask for the latest news updates with an on-screen response, without needing a separate smart device”.

We’re also told that consumers who “do not want to take advantage of far-field technology or in-built Alexa and Google, both a hardware and software toggle is available to turn off these features for peace of mind”.

Hisense Android TVs coming in 2021, too

Hisense says “Android fans will be pleased to hear that Hisense will also be launching a select number of Android TV models in 2021”, but no other information is provided.

Based on the fact Android TVs have a much wider range of apps available through the Google Play store, these will presumably be popular with Android fans.

It’s a shame that Hisense cannot, as yet, produce a TV that features both VIDAA U5 and Android TV in the same unit, letting you seamlessly switch between either interface, but presumably this adds extra cost and complexity that will only appeal to a smaller number of users - however, the fact that Hisense is offering Android TVs at all is an obvious sign there is market demand.

Perhaps Hisense will be able to introduce VIDAA features into a future build of the Android TV OS, but whether this is the case or not is just speculation on my part.

Hisense will share more information about these TVs and others in the 2021 Hisense range “in the lead up to and during the Consumer Electronics Show, which is being held virtually from January 11 – 14, 2021”.

Hisense Australia will have its latest CES news at the CES 2021 section of its website, here


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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