Smart Home Entertainment

Connected Lights Get in on the Action

Hue_smart_entertainmentHome cinema is a recurring theme at International CES. Each year, screens get sharper and wider and the number of speakers seems to grow exponentially. This year looks to be no different. Booths at CES 2015, which begins tomorrow in Las Vegas, will attempt to out-boom one another with high-def sound and Ultra HD screens. However, light now looks set to become an integral part of the home entertainment experience.

In the US, the SyFy channel has enhanced several of its programmes by connecting content to smart lighting. The television network offers a dedicated iOS app that communicates with Philips Hue bulbs to complement the home theatre screen and sound system. SyFy’s upcoming television remake of the 12 Monkeys, for example, will come with a complementary iOS app that allows Apple phones and tablets to communicate with available Hue smart bulbs to coordinate lighting effects.

Each episode of the show will have a “light track” that the iOS device will pick up and use as instructions for the smart bulbs. These will then dim, brighten or change colour to create a mood in the room, demonstrating the entertainment potential of connected lighting. It’s a saleable use for smart bulbs that cost as much as 50 times the price of ordinary lights.

One of the more innovative uses of light to augment entertainment was demonstrated two years ago at CES by Microsoft’s IllumiRoom concept, which used advanced lighting tricks to enhance games and movies. The project employs a Kinect sensor to capture the layout of the room and a projector to extend content across the wall and floor. The use of projection mapping together with sound and video content enables Microsoft’s system to create illusions such as objects falling out of the screen and onto the floor, explosions shaking surrounding furniture or light from a game bleeding onto the wall.

The IllumiRoom product has yet to be brought to market, but demonstrations have been impressive and an eager audience of Xbox gamers are following announcements and developments of the augmented reality system. The system could provide Microsoft with a competitive feature against Sony’s PlayStation, but if Microsoft doesn’t come to market then other projection-mapping products almost certainly will.

Surround lighting is an evolving angle in home entertainment systems that will require content providers and broadcasters to augment games, movies, shows and music with coordinated apps and data streams. Syncing and surround is moving beyond sound, and it raises questions about what other smart home devices could be folded into the entertainment experience. Other innovative home entertainment concepts are likely to be unveiled at CES 2015: the next few days could enlighten us to potential new trends in the living room.