Hands-on with Samsung’s Evolution Kit

Samsung made some interesting promises when it said that select TVs from the 2012 range and beyond would be upgradeable. Now, it’s 2013 and we want to see the goods, so here’s an early hands-on with the Evolution Kit.

Shown officially for the first time a month ago at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Evolution Kit is an accessory that promises to enhance and upgrade TV models in the 2012 range, adding to them features from some of the 2013 models, including the new user interface.

Not much bigger than an external hard drive, the “kit” consists of one box that can be plugged into its specific port on the back of the TV, and features some interesting bits inside to help the television make the transition.

Of note, Samsung has equipped the Evolution Kit with a quad-core processor, which when plugged in, the TV then relies on for some activities.

While the original TVs featured a dual-core processor, this tech is still used, becoming the processing power for the graphics, and making that more useful for games and video decoding moving forward. Essentially, the Evolution Kit makes it possible for the TV to feature quad-core processing and dual-core graphics.

Installation looks to be easy, with the emphasis being on plug and play.

Demonstrated to us, you simply connect it up and the TV goes through the motions, installing the software and updating the features. In this case, a 2012 model TV was working within a couple of minutes.

The most notable change is that of the user interface, which brings along five panels, including the social screen for integrating Facebook and Twitter, the photo sharing screen, and the “On TV”screen that works with an electronic program guide to show you what’s on, while also adapting to your preferences and learning what shows you like.

Also included in the upgrade is a specific voice interaction technology, which will work in Australia upon launch. Locally, Samsung has been working with Macquarie University to better adapt the technology to Australian voices, with as many as 9000 sentences recorded.

With voice functionality on board, you’ll be able to speak into the remote and ask the TV to find programs or movies, and it will be able to respond. In fact, according to one representative, the text-to-speech tech employed here won’t have the staccato segment speech patterns that many GPS navigation units have, with the speech patterns closer to that of a human and less like a robot.

Apps will also be able to be installed, with many of these being used for sporting broadcasts, with the emphasis on never needing to watch a delayed event again.

The Evolution Kit can be installed on Series 7, 8 and 9 TVs from 2012, and will be supported on those sets until roughly 2017, although a different upgrade will likely be needed for each year.

Pricing has yet to be finalised, though representative suggested that the Evolution Kit should be around $300 when it’s released, and will come with the new remote.



Leigh D. Stark travelled to Samsung Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia as a guest of Samsung Australia