Panasonic pitches touch stylus and facial recognition for this year's TVs

One or two high-end models include a built-in camera that recognizes the viewer and displays their custom home screen

Panasonic has introduced its 2013 TV line-up with a few whizz-bang features that look useful but others that seem a curious choice for the living room.

On the useful side, 2013's update to Panasonic's My Home Screen technology will let each member of a household build a personalized home screen on the TV, displaying the content sources they use most, like YouTube, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video.

For one or two high-end models, the update also adds a facial recognition feature that determines who is sitting in front of the TV, via a built-in camera, and displays their home screen automatically. Panasonic didn't say what happens when several people sit down to watch at the same time.

The company also updated its Swipe & Share feature, which is supposed to make it easy to display images and video from a tablet or smartphone on the TV. The curious addition is a large white stylus for some plasma models that lets people interact with their touchscreen TV as if it were a computer.

Tapping the screen brings up a control panel for editing images and other tasks. People can also use the pen to write handwritten messages on the screen, then transfer the image back to the tablet to email to a friend. Swipe & Share also comes only with higher-end models.

It's an unusual feature for a TV, but it's not really clear why people would want to stand in front of their TV and edit pictures instead of doing it on a computer.

The company will introduce 32 HDTVs this year, 16 plasma and 16 LED/LCD, said Vic Carlson, Panasonic's vice president of marketing, who showed off the TVs and other products at Panasonic's press conference Monday at the International CES in Las Vegas.

Panasonic has also worked with HSN (Home Shopping Network) to incorporate a new, Web-based app that makes it easier for people to browse thousands of products, watch videos about them and shop, all from the living room couch.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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