Panasonic and LG plasma TVs to offer 720p HD video chats via Skype

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TVs with Internet connectivity are nothing new, but this is pretty cool: As the world’s first TV makers, Panasonic and LG are cooperating with Skype to incorporate the software, which will make it possible to video chat in 720p HD quality, into TVs.

According to a Japanese media report [registration required, paid subscription], Americans will be able to buy the Pansasonic TVs first (as early as this spring), followed by Japanese and Europeans in the summer. Skype itself, however, speaks of a release in mid-2010 for both the LG and Panasonic TVs.

The Skype function, for which the report mentioned above says buyers have to pay “hundreds of dollars” more than for identical TVs without it, will be available in special VIERA models (the picture shows one Panasonic is currently selling in the US) and LG’s 26 LCD and plasma HDTVs with NetCast Entertainment Access.

Skype says the features include:

* Free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls
* Calls to landline or mobile phones at Skype’s low rates
* The option to receive inbound calls via a user’s online Skype number
* Skype voicemail, if it is set up
* Being invited to participate in voice conference calls with up to 24 other parties
* Support for up to 720p HD video calls, depending on the availability of high-speed broadband and a HD webcam

The TVs will feature a microphone and a built-in video camera, which – according to Skype – can pick up sound and video from a couch-distance. Skype has set up a dedicated website for those TVs for more information (but the link is currently dead).