The annual CEDIA Expo in Atlanta might not perk up ears quite the same way CES ignites public interest in January, but for true techies, it’s still a sight to behold. From home automation systems that will prime your house for relaxation before you even arrive to stereos that rival the cost of a modest house, CEDIA presents a look into an amazing high-tech lifestyle few of us can afford, but also a peek ahead of the curve to technologies heading down the pipeline to the mass market. Here’s what made waves at CEDIA this year – and what could be coming down the pipe to a retailer near you sometime soon.
From Sony to Sharp, Mitsubishi and JVC, all the big players in home theater made efforts to bring the in-theater 3D experience home this year, big screen and all. While most models still run in the $10,000 bracket, Sharp’s impressive XV-Z17000 will come in for under $5,000 when it debuts next year, and JVC’s DLA-X3 will sell for only $4,449, before adding the required glasses and IR emitter required for 3D. For the truly wealthy, both LG and Runco showed off projectors that use the same passive glasses used in theaters, eliminating the bulk, expense and 3D “crosstalk” of active-shutter models.
Go here for more on 3D projectors at CEDIA 2010.
$1,500 custom touchpads are out, $500 iPads are in. Apple’s iPad has gone from a color e-reader, Web browser and gaming device to a remote control for your entire household. Home automation companies from Crestron to Control4 and even URC – a company that makes a living on dedicated remotes – have built iPad apps that let you fade lights up and down with the wag of a finger, set every speaker in the house to blast Bach, or check on your security cams from the coffee shop. Some companies even build mounts to hardwire an iPad right into a wall.
Not so much a new trend as the continuation of an old one, manufacturers continue to embrace wireless technology as a way to liberate home electronics from the strangling embrace of wires. See: Sonos’ new wireless iPod dock, Proficient’s AirFlex wireless audio system, Aperion’s latest wireless speakers, and so on. For the moment, though, wireless power remains a pipe dream, and even wireless HD has been relegated to relatively expensive hardware like Iogear’s GWAV8141K, which as expensive as its product name is obtuse.
No custom installer needed
Half the expense of getting a high-end home theater lies not in the equipment itself, but the labor to install it. A number of companies continue to pare out the middle man with audiophile-grade products that consumers can set up themselves. This is old hat to Sonos, which merely introduced a new wireless iPod dock this year, but new to companies like SpeakerCraft, which introduced a pair of candy-colored iPad docks that will sell in Best Buy stores. CEO Jeremy Burkhardt even called out his dealers specifically with a warning: Get on board with these types of products, or face extinction with scores of other custom installers that have gone the way of the dodo in hard economic times.
While CEDIA remains a show dedicated to conspicuous consumption, the concept of “going green,” or at least the resemblance of it, still presents a recurring theme. The primary vehicle for much-touted energy savings: home automation systems that make it easier to cut back on the luxuries that drive electricity bills through the roof. Lutron, for instance, introduced new dimmers compliant with CFL and LED bulbs, plus a “green button” for its lighting control systems that automatically dims the lights, draws the blinds, turns off unneeded appliances, and raises or lowers the thermostat temperature, all with on button press. An app from v for Control4 owners will automatically turn off comfort features, like air conditioning, in response to a spike in energy draw from an appliance like a toaster, keeping average energy draw lower during hours of peak demand. Will it really compensate for your 60-inch plasma and theater-style popcorn popper? Probably not, but we’re glad to see the brains in smart homes being used for more than just obscene indulgence.