Creating an immersive at-home entertainment experience
Image credit: Dreamstime
The BBC has helped shape the way we consume media for the last century, but what do the coming years hold? We picked out some technologies that could change your home entertainment experience.
A cosy night in
Our first pick for creating a more immersive at-home entertainment experience is rather obvious, but sometimes the simplest of technologies are the most effective. So, to take these cosy nights-in up a notch, why not try to find an 8K picture quality TV, perhaps on the larger scale…
Of course, there are plenty of TVs on the market for people to choose from, but one with an 8K picture quality will give you the best experience. “If you want to experience the highest quality displays, then 8K is the way to go,” says consumer tech company Reliant. “8K displays provide extreme levels of accuracy, so you don’t miss details in anything you watch. So, if you want that cinematic film night experience, then an 8K screen will provide the most accurate picture and immersive experience.”
Reliant offers televisions that utilise technologies such as QNED, NanoCell, QLED, NEO QLED, and LG Signature displays that provide ultra-fine and super-sharp focused lights and extreme blacks. “They provide an array of colours and shades to bring you lifelike colours, so you can immerse yourself in your shows, films, and sports,” it adds.
The company’s TVs feature powerful processors to upscale images to their maximum resolution, allowing viewers to enjoy finer details in everything they watch. “Anti-reflection technology improves viewing angles, allowing the television to be enjoyed from multiple areas of the room. With OLED displays there are self-lit pixels, that generate fuller colour and sharper images.”
Reliant’s TVs are also “surround sound ready”, allowing you to “elevate your audio experience with multi-directional sound”. Although many TVs already have proficient speakers and sound tracking capabilities, Reliant says a surround sound set-up is the way to “level up”.
Again, it’s an obvious choice, but getting an 8K television is a great way to set up the ultimate at-home entertainment system. That being said, we’d say it would be best to opt for a 75-inch (or bigger) TV to make it completely worth your while. Any smaller, and it may take that immersive experience away.
A prism of sound
To complement the visuals on your 8K quality TV while watching, say, a horror film in your living room, sound is key – after all, the sounds make horrors scarier. But to truly feel immersed in the experience, surround sound – or 3D audio – is your best bet. And this is where technology such as Dolby Atmos comes into the picture.
While Atmos has been around for a decade now, making its debut with the release of Pixar’s movie ‘Brave’ back in 2012, the technology has ushered in a new era of 3D sound and is increasingly becoming one of the most significant and impactful technologies in home entertainment.
The defining feature of the technology is its configuration of audio objects – sounds are no longer limited to their respective channels, in either a vertical or horizontal movement. Think of each sound as a floating orb in space: it can ‘float’ along any plane. Such height channels create a more immersive sound.
To gain a better sound experience for your home cinema, or for playing music, a multi-speaker set-up may be best. But even soundbars with Atmos, such as AO’s Sonos Beam, offer a much ‘bigger’ and more enveloping soundstage than stereo bars.
According to AO, Sonos Beam can “enrich your entertainment experience” and it allows its users to “enjoy panoramic sound”, whether that be for watching shows or films, or playing video games.
This technology is certainly a purchase that would give you what AO describes as “exceptional sound all around”, but fair warning, you would need a TV that supports Dolby Atmos and Atmos-encoded content.
Let there be light!
If you want to enhance the visuals beyond your already 8K television, then perhaps a TV backlight may do the trick.
By illuminating the wall behind your TV, experts say you can significantly improve your TV’s colour and contrast, black levels, and power consumption, while reducing your eye strain (blame streaming services for its binge-watching models!).
LED products such as those created by award-winning lighting company Govee can mimic predominant colours found in the content being displayed on the screen.
Govee says its Envisual camera colour-match technology, using algorithms crafted in-house, intelligently “recognises and captures” the colours on your TV screen and applies them to your backlights automatically.
Govee’s DreamView product has a segmented colour control feature which allows users to personalise every segment on a single strip light for a more vibrant viewing experience. This is done through its RGBIC lighting display tech – powered by an advanced IC (Independent Control) chip – which allows for multiple colours to be seen on one strip light simultaneously.
At the tip of your fingers
From scrolling endlessly through TikTok to watching silly cat videos on Facebook, there’s no doubt that the videos we view on our smartphones are now a huge part of the way we consume content and entertain ourselves. But what if we told you that there’s tech out there that could enhance your video experience, particularly for live events?
Well, there is. In fact, a start-up called Happaning is proposing a drastic next step in video through introducing a new media format of Multi-Vantage-Videos, which the London-based company has aptly named ViiVids.
But how does it work? When users capture video, ViiVid data streams (including audio/visual output, time signatures, locational/positional information, metadata, etc) are generated and broadcast over a decentralised, peer-to-peer mesh network of recording devices, mobile and static. Each device then synchronises and logs the pertinent data within the network.
It comprises direct (e.g. Bluetooth), local (e.g. Wi-Fi) and mobile phone networks simultaneously, allowing co-located individuals (including those with no mobile data) or remote viewers to pan in a given direction between vantages within the recording network in a space/time synchronised manner, the company says. Unobtrusive augmented-reality (AR) markers then show the relative location and position (distance, altitude and/or direction) of other available vantage points within the current field of view, while periphery markers show those out of frame.
Once the recording concludes, the media artefacts (coupled with checksums and a timeline of pertinent synchronisation data) are sent for server-side, post-production processing to corroborate, merge and prepare the vantages for on-demand retrospective ViiVid playback.
“So, whether at the event or from the comfort of your own home, the ViiVid player lets you seamlessly move between the multiple videos in a ViiVid by swiping in the direction you want to see, moving around just like you were there,” says co-founder and chief operating officer Ese Eniwumide.
The initial use cases for the technology are for recording real-world events like weddings, concerts, sports events, protests or marches, or any others where a larger crowd of people would attend. Once recorded in Happaning, you can swipe from one video to the next to see the same event from other angles and perspectives by tapping on markers inside the video.
Think of it as like a Google Street View, but with video.
Smell the wine
Imagine a world where it’s possible to heighten your other senses while gaming...
Well actually, researchers at Stockholm University and Malmö University in Sweden have developed an odour machine, a so-called olfactometer, that makes it possible for gamers to smell in VR environments. And along with the scent machine, they created a ‘wine-tasting game’.
In the game, the participant moves in a virtual wine cellar, picking up glasses containing different wine, guessing the aromas. The small scent machine is attached to the VR system’s controller, and when the player lifts the glass, it releases a scent.
Jonas Olofsson, professor of psychology and leader of the research project at Stockholm University, hopes that the new technical possibilities will lead to scents having a more important role in game development.
“The possibility to move on from a passive to a more active sense of smell in the game world paves the way for the development of completely new smell-based game mechanics based on the players’ movements and judgments,” adds Simon Niedenthal, interaction and game researcher at Malmö University.
The olfactometer comprises four valves each connected to a channel from which a fan sucks air into a central tube. With the help of the computer, the player can control the four channels so that they open to different degrees and provide different mixtures of scent.
To date, VR has only given us more immersive games from a visual perspective. This could certainly take the experience up a level – though you wouldn’t want to play a farm game.
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