IFA 2017: Panasonic Unveils Google Smart Assistant Speaker, Partners With Samsung To Take On Dolby Vision

Panasonic is getting into the Smart Assistant connected speaker business. The company unveiled the SC-GA10 at IFA, Europe’s largest technology expo. Offering an audiophile approach to the fast growing connected speaker market, the desktop speaker offers a significant improvement in sound quality over the original Google Home speaker.

The square-edged SC-GA10 is larger than Google Home and the Amazon Echo, and features two 20-mm soft dome tweeters offering 180 degree dispersion. An 8cm woofer with a dual voice coil is supported by a long port back bass reflex system, for a rich mid-range and deep bass. In demonstrations, the compact speaker had no problem filling a demonstartion booth with fulsome, rich audio.

In addition, Google Assistant’s multiroom function means users can further combine it with Chromecast audio or Chromecast integrated speakers. The SC-GA10 is expected to go on sale in select territories later this year, price TBA.

While Panasonic didn’t introduce any new TVs at IFA, unless you count a 77-inch version of its flagship EZ1000 OLED, model it did use the show to throw weight behind HDR10+, the Samsung-led HDR rival to Dolby Vision. An update on the universal HDR standard, this iteration similarlyuses dynamic metadata to optimise image quality on a scene by scene basis. Standard HDR applies a single HDR profile to a complete piece of content.

Hollywood major 20th Century Fox also announced its intention to support HDR10+. Taking the Panasonic stage, Danny Kaye, executive VP at 20th Century Fox and managing director of the Fox Innovation Lab, described the format as “a significant step forward” in UHD picture quality. He revealed that the studio was preparing a slate of HDR10+ releases for worldwide release. “Dynamic metadata can precisely describe the brightness, colour and contrast parameters for each scene in a movie,” he declared.

The move is a significant setback for Dolby Labs, which has aspirations to make Dolby Vision the dominant premium HDR standard.

Panasonic revealed that it would bring HDR10+ compatibility to its 2016 4K pro OLED TVs via a firmware update, and extend it to its full 4K line-up in 2018.

There was no news though of any HDR10+ firmware update to Panasonic’s UHD Blu-ray players. Probably because there is no standardised approach to delivering HDR10+ within the Blu-ray specification. However, insiders have hinted there will be developments at the 2018 CES. It’s highly likely that at that point, the Blu-ray Disc Association will formally rubber-stamp HDR10+ as an extension for the 4K disc format.

First seen behind closed doors at CES 2017, HDR10+ appears to have enjoyed considerable refinement. Panasonic says that there is now a good deal of its own IP in the technology. Comparison at IFA between HDR10+ and standard HDR reveal dramatic improvements in highlight detail, colour depth and contrast.

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