This past summer, Samsung thought it would be a good idea to break folks’ TVs in the United Kingdom. It wasn’t real, of course – it was an attempt to show off a core feature of its 2018 lineup: Ambient Mode.
It spiked some interest in the feature, leading people to wonder – what does it actually do, exactly?
I was wondering the same thing, so I paid a visit to Samsung’s loft in NYC – a full showroom meant to resemble a real apartment, right in the Meatpacking District. The cozy loft came complete with appliances and other niceties, including QLED TVs.
I was shown a demo of a 65-inch QLED TV with Ambient Mode. This feature is Samsung’s answer to transforming a television into an organic part of your living space instead of just sitting there taking up space.
The company realized that you can still show something on a TV when it’s not in use, and that’s where Ambient Mode comes in. It allows the TV to blend in with the environment – in this case, a brick wall. Once that’s set, you can overlay different effects on top of it. It certainly is a neat feature and feels futuristic, but I’m not quite sure it’s a necessity.
For one, keeping the screen on would use more energy, even if it is a minimal amount. Samsung did inform me that, on average, using Ambient Mode will only increase the electric bill by about a dollar a month, though.
The reason this is surprisingly low is thanks to two energy-centric features. The first is a set of ambient light sensors that will adjust the screen’s brightness. If it gets dark for about 30 minutes, the TV will automatically shut down.
Secondly, the QLED TVs connect to your iPhone or Android device through Bluetooth, if you have the SmartThings app installed. From there it will detect if you are in the room, and if you’re too far away, it will turn the screen off automatically. Granted, you do have to give the app extra permission, like background refresh, on iOS or Android.
Both of these energy settings can be customized to your liking via this application. They’re tucked away in the settings panel, though, so hopefully Samsung makes it obvious that users do have choices.
And there’s no reason to worry about any cameras spying on you with these features. In fact, this app for iOS and Android is your primary control for the TV. You can customize the theme, cast content to it, and also use traditional TV controls.
Setting up Ambient Mode
Ambient Mode’s neat trick is accomplished through the SmartThings app. You might recall making a mobile deposit for a check. This is a similar process. You hold your smartphone up to the TV as if you’re taking a photo and line it up into the square.
From there, the photo will be taken and then scanned. You’ll see it appear on the TV in front of you. After the first intake, you’ll hold your smartphone up again as it adjusts brightness and colors in real time. This is the finishing touch that makes the TV blend into the environment.
After this, you can choose from several screen overlays like a mountain range, a visual forecast, and even news updates. Samsung will regularly introduce new content for Ambient Mode through free software updates.
Is it believable?
I will admit I was skeptical of the feature going in, but seeing Ambient Mode in person really conveys what Samsung is trying for. No, a blank black TV screen doesn’t bother me, but this mode enhances it in a way that adds style and purpose.
From a technological standpoint, it’s impressive that it can do the intake of the environment in real time and looks incredible. This is all due to Samsung’s QLED technology, which allows for vibrant colors, better brightness, and dark blacks.
The process itself is speedy, and you get a lot of customization over the appearance and the settings behind it. If you’re an energy-conscious person, you can turn it off or set a timer. And if you don’t want the TV to be in communication with the Samsung app on your phone, you can turn that off as well.
Ambient Mode certainly lets you get more out of your TV, but time will tell if this interesting augment becomes a standard feature in the future.