Must haves for the connected lounge room of the future
Pretty soon these devices could be a common sight in everyone’s lounge rooms.
Once a place for piano playing and parlour games, the lounge room has come a very long way. As well as being a family gathering area, it is now the central point for digital entertainment in the home.
Thanks to these seven devices that are either already available or are ‘coming soon’ to Australia, your lounge room is potentially set to become smarter, more amusing, more convenient and more comfortable.
All about that stream
Most modern TVs have ethernet ports and wi-fi capabilities that enable them to be connected to the internet. Alternatively, plugging in a device such as Apple TV or Google Chromecast (similar to the way you would plug in a DVD player or gaming unit), you can bring the online world to the big screen.
Movie and TV streaming apps available in Australia, such as Netflix, Stan and Presto, make it easy to access a world of movies, TV shows and documentaries on demand.
As more of our entertainment moves online, it only makes sense that those options will be increasingly easy to access through our TVs, as well as our connected other devices.
The next step beyond Bluetooth technology is to wirelessly stream music to connected speakers over your wi-fi connection. There are several options for high-tech speakers, like Sonos and LG Music Flow, that allow you to stream from your connected device or music streaming service.
Apple users can choose an AirPlay wireless speaker to stream from their Mac, iPod or iPad. Google offers Google Cast speakers or a Chromecast Audio device that plugs into old speakers to bring them into the connected age.
You can also splash out on a set of wireless Sonos speakers or similar products from LG, Samsung or Bose that can be placed around your house for uninterrupted sound in every room.
An all-powerful router
Your modem mostly sits in the corner quietly gathering dust, but it is hard at work making sure that the connected devices in your lounge room don’t drive you crazy by dropping out or taking forever to load.
Not all modems are created equal! Maximise the enjoyment factor of your futuristic connected home by investing in a wi-fi router that can deliver high speed internet and support several devices simultaneously.
When you are purchasing your router, ask in-store about the range to make sure your internet reaches to your lounge room and beyond, and make sure you research online before making a purchase!
The new Apple TV allows you to yell at your set and actually get a response thanks to voice control technology, although you can keep things civil if you want. The Xbox One has a similar feature, allowing you to interact with it through a suite of pre-programmed voice commands.
Over in the USA, Amazon’s Echo speaker / voice activated personal assistant also has voice control. This device is so smart, you can ask it to play a specific song, tell it to turn the lights on and off or even request an update on how long it’s going to take you to get to work.
At the moment, you can only buy this device if you have a US credit card, but no doubt many similar products will hit the Australian market in the very near future.
These three products are just examples of what is to come. Eventually, it’s possible your entire lounge room could be controllable by voice, from the TV, to the music, to the lighting.
After some mood lighting in your lounge room? No need to get up! Wireless ‘smart lights’ can be automated, or controlled using your smartphone or tablet.
The best ones can be set to a timer or even scheduled to change colours and even flash (like when it’s time to leave for school in the morning, or when you just really need to get your dance party on).
Smart lights have limited availability in Australia at present, but there are some options including the Philips Hue that you can buy now. You can start with a few bulbs and then gradually expand to light your entire house.
Just keep in mind that they’re more expensive than the regular kind!
In the near future, it’s entirely possible that a connected living room won’t be complete without at least one virtual reality headset.
Using 360 degree technology, VR sets like the highly anticipated Oculus Rift can put the viewer in the centre of the action – something that is particularly exciting for fans of video games, but has also seen some success for nature documentaries and other forms of video entertainment.
These headsets are also likely to come in handy for people who share a house and want to be able to watch a show without disturbing their housemates, people who have limited space, or parents who have had enough of watching Peppa Pig on repeat.
Nest (or something like it)
Video courtesy: Nest
One company with products that Australia is still hanging out for is Nest, which specialises in enabling remote control and smart automations for your lights, thermostat, doorbell, smoke alarm and even your sprinklers.
In the lounge room, Nest can be connected to your central heating system. It will then proceed to ‘learn’ how long your house takes to warm up and figure out the nuances of your system in order to make your heating run as efficiently as possible.
With our entertainment, our lights and our heating sorted in our future connected lounge rooms, all we need to do is wait for robot butlers that can bring the drinks!
The lounge room isn't the only spot in your house that could be getting a tech-heavy revamp in the next few years. Check out how the kitchen of the future is also shaping up to be a very interesting space.