InfoComm 2005 was the best InfoComm yet. 725 exhibitors, 25,240 attendees, three days, and two tired feet later I am slightly in awe of the technology coming from this show. After walking the 385,000 square foot exhibit hall, I needed to soak my feet in the nearest swimming pool. With cool feet and a cool brew next to my laptop, I attempt to sort out all of the neat new stuff displayed at the show.
Although InfoComm is primarily a commercial trade show, there was a lot of new technology that transcends over to the home theater. In fact, this year is the first time that InfoComm has presented a Home Theater Pavilion. There were 49 exhibitors in this pavilion with crossover products from the commercial side to the home theater.
In this report, I am going to concentrate on the home entertainment products. After all, these are the products that make us drool.
One of the more interesting exhibits was the Avolution Home, located outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Next Gen Avolution home is a 2,050 square foot home exhibiting connected technologies to enhance everyday living. This home is a multiyear awareness project. You can learn more about the house by going to www.NextGenHome.com.
One of the innovative concepts that caught my eye in the home was the Philips magical mirror. At first you think that you are looking at yourself in a normal mirror, but with the push of a button the mirror turns into a LCD television screen. The mirror in the bathroom has two sections, both looks like a single mirror, but one section remains a mirror while the other becomes a flat panel TV. Now, mom can do her makeup and watch something else besides cartoons.
I was enthralled by the Reversica plasma/LCD Television concealment system, which is very unique. As you walk into the bedroom, you see a beautifully designed bookcase, but with a slight tug, the bookcase flips 180 degrees to reveal a 50″ flat screen TV. The Gyre 6300 rotation system swings out, tracing a teardrop pattern and returning to its original location, only reversed. This amazingly takes place in only 18″ of space.
For those of you who have a home theater, Irwin seating has a recliner that can be ordered with power and data ports for those who not only want to view movies but use their home theater screen for games or data projection.
Back in the exhibit area, Sony’s IVE (sounds just like the vine), which means Instant Video Everywhere was grabbing its share of attention both in the commercial market as well as the home. IVE is a user-friendly video communication service that is as easy and spontaneous as using a telephone, but with face-to-face video. You actually have a phone number just as though the IVE was your phone. This is a great tool for business people who travel a lot and want to see familiar faces back home. It is also ideal for families who are separated by many miles and little time to travel for visits. Grandparents would love this concept. Glowpoint, the world’s leader in broadcast-quality IP-based video communications, joined Sony to develop this concept.
As a number of homes with high-bandwidth Internet and networking capability are growing, many of you want to take advantage of their connected environments. Using a network-based automation and control software, you can be safer, more energy efficient and have more convenience and fun. Software from Global Cache controls and automates entertainment centers, security, lighting, irrigation and all appliances throughout the home. Dukane has announced that it will integrate Global Cache’s Network Adapter into its newly announced ConVA Media Control System to seamlessly connect previously un-networked devices such as projectors and DVD players.
The future of movie and music storage is changing. Imagine having instant access to your entire collection of DVD movies, recorded TV shows, music CD’s, digital photographs and Internet Radio Stations from any room in full digital surround sound. Science fiction? Future wishing? Not with Axonix’s MediaMax. MediaMax makes entertainment pleasurable, not a chore. Simply load your entire collection onto the MediaServer and with a click of a button you will be instantly enjoying on-demand home entertainment from any room, any time!
AMX simplifies your life with MAX, the digital butler. MAX stores, manages, instantly locates and plays audio and video content with the same quality as the original. Search for DVD/CD titles, artist, genre, song or movie title, director, actors and more. MAX has so many features and makes content control so easy, you’ll wonder how you ever did without MAX; and you don’t have to pay MAX any benefits or worry about giving MAX a vacation.
The projector is the heart of many home theaters. The show produced several new concepts in this area. Optoma upped the home theater ante by introducing their new DV10 MovieTime digital DVD projector. You heard it right. Optoma built in a DVD player into a 1000 Lumen DLP projector. The projector also has 2 5-watt stereo speakers, making this an all-in-one projection system.
By having the DVD signal direct to the projector, the colors are more accurate and the details are clearer. The DV10 has an optical audio output ideal for Dolby and DTS Surround Sound. The projector is very quiet at 28 db and has a contrast ratio of 4000:1. The native resolution is 480p.
At the other end of the scale comes a revolution in smallness. The PocketProjector (why are all of the manufacturers combining words?) could be the world’s smallest projector, weighing in at less than a good steak, just 14 ounces. It will fit in the palm of your hand. The PocketProjector uses a newly developed LED lamp, which has an almost infinite life span of 20,000 hours. Oh, I forgot to mention that this projector could run on a battery, which is sold as an accessory. It will be hard to keep this one out of the kids’ hands.
Hitachi introduced a crossover projector, which is designed for commercial applications, having a 4:3 native aspect ratio, but it can be used over the weekend at home. The PJ-LC7 is a LCD projector, which offers cost effective, yet powerful technology that raises entry-level performance.
Eiki introduced the EIP-1500T. Yeah, the 1500 means lumens. This DLP projector is true 720p with a contrast ratio of 2500:1 The color artifacts are reduced to a minimum by using the 3X speed, 6 segment color wheel from Texas Instruments. This unit has all the features that you could want in a home theater projector, including power zoom and focus, which most home theater projectors do not have.
We just can’t get away from it. 3D is back again but this time not in the movies. LightspeeD displayed the InFocus DepthQ affordable 3D video projector. Lucas should love this projector now that he plans to remake Star Wars in 3D. The DepthQ is basically a commercial model, but who knows, home movies may not be far behind.
If space allows, the Retracta-Vu Theater by Vutec should be given serious consideration. This is a piece of furniture that will be available in a selection of finishes. The closed cabinet is 96″ wide, by 32 ” high and 25″ deep. The projection screen rises from the cabinet to produce a 92″ diagonal viewing screen, while the special NEC WT610 projector slides out of the front turning the cabinet into a full-blown theater. No ceiling mounts here. The system interfaces with most intelligent control systems. Wave your wand (or remote) and watch the screen and projector do a disappearing act.
DLP has dominated the home theater for many years, but LCD is coming on strong. The technology is called 3LCD. When you buy a 3LCD projector, you are getting three individual LCD panels, red, blue and green. The colors are combined into one full-color image. LCD technology has been around for many years, but new advances in technology makes 3LCD a good alternative choice.
Since 3LCD does not use color wheels, there is no color breakup. This reduces potential visual fatigue. The latest 3LCD products now produce 10 quintillion steps of gray scale gradation and contrast ratios in excess of 1000:1. New advances could bring the contrast up to 6000:1. 3LCD panel systems are now reaching 5000 Lumens and above. You can expect LCD technology to be around for a long time.
With over 60 companies selling projectors it is next to impossible to look at them all. Being a commercial show, there were not many home theater models to be seen.
Nippora was showing its Blue Ocean 100″ acrylic screen. Blue Ocean is created in the center of Cast Optical Acrylic, creating an indescribable amazing deep viewing experience. Actually, I can describe it with just one word, “Wow.” This rear projection screen fully maximizes the projector’s capability delivering the projected light forcibly to the viewer with a most real image. The contrast and sharpness of this rear projection screen is breathtaking.
Hidden in a projector company’s booth was a front projection screen that defies ambient light. The Accuon screen ignores surrounding room light and presents a projected image that compares to plasma. The Hubble II engineers designed this screen and takes front projection out of the dark and into the bright lights of the den or even pool side.
Just like the name suggests, the Acoustical Imager is a revolutionary projection screen that marries a fixed frame screen with 5.1 Surround Sound. Audio is provided by a JBL Surround Sound speaker system, capable of pushing 88 dB through five speakers. The front speakers are part of the screen and blend in un-noticed. Even with the speakers in place, the screen is only 3″ deep. The standard system can be upgraded to 6.1 or 7.1. Did I mention that the system has a 150-watt subwoofer and two external rear speakers? The Da-Lite screen system is a real treat to the ears.
Stewart was showing its Grayhawk RS screen designed so that the viewer can enjoy the best picture from digital projectors by increasing black levels, shadow details and overall color saturation.
Again, 3D makes an appearance. Stewart featured a 3D show on their Techplex 100 rear screen. This rigid rear diffusion projection material is composed of advanced pigments to provide excellent off axis performance and a dark tint to improve contrast. The image was very impressive. When is Star Wars going to be in 3D?
I just can’t miss watching NASCAR on Saturday. Yet, the sun is out and the pool is inviting. SunBrite TV has solved the problem. They introduced two all-weather outdoor LCD televisions. The 32″ model would look great mounted on the side of the pool. Now I splash the kids, watch the race and not worry about damaging the TV. Okay, hang it on the patio so you can swing in your hammock while watching your latest DVD. The TV even has a heater so that it can be left out all year. What’s next, a LCD TV for the lawn mower?
The leader in LCD televisions introduced the world’s largest Digital High-Definition LCD TV. The Sharp Aquos 65″ Hi-Def TV was very impressive. Precisely displayed 1080i is exactly as broadcast. This unit has Sharp’s QS Technology that improves moving video responsiveness. The sound was also impressive. This is due to a high-aperture speaker system and a proprietary 1-Bit digital amplifier. Two features that caught my eye were the 60,000-hour backlight and the ability to replace the backlight.
From large to small. AEI Components launched a 7″ LCD that was 16:9 with two video inputs, IR remote and has a brightness of 300 NIT. It not only handles video, but the TV can be used with your PC. Maybe I can get this to work with my lawn mower.
The most unusual speaker system at the show has to be Induction Dynamics’ SolidDrive system. Your wall or your window is transformed into the speaker. The SolidDrive produces sound by converting an audio signal into a powerful vibration that can be transferred into a solid material. These speakers are mounted inside the wall making the wall a speaker. Even the sub-woofer is installed in the wall. Want to drive your diner guests crazy? Attach these speakers to the underside of your dining room table and watch their expression as “dinner music” pours out of the table.
Tannoy’s arena speakers were the most elegant home theater speakers at this show. The design is very futuristic and they come in four color-options. Tannoy’s exclusive point source Dual Concentric driver technology provides wide dispersion characteristics and excellent listening area coverage. What does this mean? Great sound.
One of the problems that we are faced with is where to place the projector when the projector can’t be placed in its normal center position to the screen. When the projector is off center, keystoning becomes an issue. Manglar Lab introduced a new, patented process. With their new software, projection is as easy as dragging the corners and edges of the image with the mouse. Therefore, the projector can be placed off center from the screen, yet the edges of the image will be square.
In a residential theater, the goal is to achieve the best audio and video performance possible. One of the most important factors is often overlooked â€“ the room itself. Aurlaex focuses on making the sound accurate, then incorporates the aesthetics in to the design. The right acoustical treatment can give any room a listening environment that let’s you hear soundtracks, as they were intended to be heard. Auralex has hundreds of fabric styles and colors to choose from, all of which are designed for acoustical use.
Acoustical Solutions was showing their fabric wrapped wall panels and baffles. Their AlphaSorb wall panels answer your acoustical and aesthetical needs with strong sound-absorbing tiles and baffles. The panels are durable and good to look at.
Calypso has several control interface devices and software, which are compatible with both commercial, as well as home theater controls. A home theater installer has the ability to create custom, PC-based control applications without code writing. Their Pro I/O fits into a wide range of applications, providing control for devices such as DVD players, flat panel TV’s, video servers, screens, projectors, routers and lighting.
Cut the wires. If you use your computer with a plasma or LCD TV, a wireless keyboard may be the way to connect. Wireless Computing has their RF-250 encrypted RF keyboard for two-way digital communication. It has a sleep mode and operates on two AA batteries. There is no software to install. All you need is a standard USB connection on the computer. Encryption protects against eavesdropping for the home office.
Many home theaters have an equipment rack. Most of these racks are in an enclosure or in a closet. The components in these racks will become overheated because of the close confinement and lack of ventilation. Active Thermal Management introduced Cool-Stack II, a two-unit high quiet cooler for larger racks. No matter what you rack configuration is, Cool-Stack can be vented in several different directions. Cool-Stack pulls up to 130 CFM with very little noise. ATM also has other cooling solutions. Cool is cool.
Many of the aforementioned products have a lot more going for them than can be put into an article. I suggest that you visit the companies’ web sites to get more in-depth details.
Where to find it:
* 3LCD www.3lcd.com
* Accuon Corporation www.accuon.com
* Acoustical Solutions www.acousticalsolutions.com
* AEI Componets www.aeicomp.com
* AMX www.amx.com
* Active Thermal Management www.activethermal.com
* Auralex www.aurelex.com
* Axonix Corporation www.axonix.com
* Calypso Control Systems www.calypsocontrol.com
* Da-Lite Screen Company www.da-lite.com
* Dukane Corporation www.dukcorp/av
* Eiki International www.eiki.com
* Global Cache www.globalcache.com
* Hitachi America www.hitachi.us
* Induction Dynamics www.inductiondynamics.com
* Irwin Seating Company www.irwinseating.com
* LightspeeD www.lightspeeddesign.com
* Mangler Lab www.projectionimprovement.com
* Mitsubishi www.mitsubishi-presentations.com
* NEC Solutions America www.necsolutions-am.com
* Nippura, Inc. www.usnippura.com
* Optoma Technology www.optomahometheater.com
* Philips Electronics www.philips.com
* Reversica www.reversica.com
* Sharp Electronics www.sharpusa.com
* Sony www.sonyive.com
* Sunbright TV www.sunbrighttv.com
* Tannoy www.tannoyna.com
* Vutec Corporation www.vutec.com
* Wireless Computing www.wireless-computing.com