New Trends in the Home Entertainment Room

First, it was the death of the family photo album, replaced by computer-based slide shows, digital frames, and free online photo-sharing sites. Next, we started saying goodbye to large collections of music compact discs - forget albums, they date back to the dinosaurs - as MP3 players and computer software allowed us to purchase, store and manage our music digitally. In 2009 we saw the surge in popularity of several e-readers, available from both leading booksellers and consumer electronics companies.

This year, the trends continue, as digital media streaming and/or storage of movies is expected to become the dominant form of home video entertainment in the near future. What does this mean for the home? Certainly it means less storage space will be needed for large collections of books, compact discs and family photographs, for all but the analog purists. It also means that homes must have sufficient wiring in appropriate places for media streaming devices, most of which have both digital storage and internet connectivity.

At this point in time, the technology for wireless streaming of content from room to room within the home does not provide high enough quality for video and audio, so wiring systems that connect media servers at a central location to distributed sound and video systems through the home are essential in planning. It is conceivable that in the near future as more content goes digital, one of two trends will emerge: homes will have a place for backup servers to store and archive media; or, cloud storage accessible from multiple locations will replace local storage and backup facilities.

As media centers become more commonplace in the home, additional applications should emerge, such as better telecommuting, integration of security systems with media centers, enhanced 3D gaming and virtual reality, tracking of family health statistics and other visually-oriented information and data. Touchpanel controls like those provided by AMX, or human-interface touchpad remotes like those planned by Synaptics can be integrated into the home theatre or media room and will select media choices or streaming video channels. They will ultimately be used for other applications as well, like adjusting sound and lighting levels in the room and integrating with intercom systems and HVAC. Reducing needed storage space and centralizing home activities are reasonable responses to recent trends identified by the AIA (American Institute of Architects) toward smaller, less expensive starter homes that integrate technology in smart, energy efficient ways.

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