Remember Minority Report? That kick-ass movie with Tom Cruise and Samantha Morton? It had a big impact, largely because of the ultra-cool, hands-free interface Cruise used while tracking down criminals. But for our money, the coolest scene in that movie didn’t involve the interface at all. It was when Cruise came home after a long day, stepped into his dark apartment, and uttered the words, “I’m home.”
His entire place sprung to life: music starting to play, lights coming on, his dinner starting to bubble away on the stove. It was so cool that we wondered why on earth it didn’t exist yet.
It took a few years the gadgets like the and smart light bulbs to find their way into our homes, connecting us with our possessions in what has become known as the Internet of Things. Much as we love telling our home to turn the heating off from half a continent away, it’s still not quite as game changing as those two simple words: “I’m home.”
If you’re audio minded, as we are, then there’s a fundamental problem with the Internet of Things. For the most part, it’s completely bypassed the world of A/V. Sure, we can control our multiroom system with an app, but really, that’s as far as it got. For an industry so interested in technological progress, you would have thought that companies like Klipsch and Yamaha and Sony would have started making it easier for us to control the audio in our homes.
By thought alone
What if, the moment you walked in the door after a long day, you could issue a command to your home theater? What if you could tell it to, say, power up, and it would instantly spring into life? Not just turning on, but actually navigating to your preferred settings, loading up the next episode of the series you were watching, dimming the lights for you and patiently waiting for you to drop onto the couch and tell it to start. Or better yet, why not just install pressure sensor on the couch and have it activate automatically?
It’s a little bit strange that we don’t have something like this already. We have voice control, wireless technology, and relationships between hardware and software that are ridiculously complex. And yet, no one’s put it together. Our home audio-visual systems remain stubbornly unconnected.
But there are signs that may be changing. The Amazon Echo is a connected speaker that aims to take over your life, not only playing your favourite music at a voice command but also ordering your breakfast cereal at the same time. Although to be honest, we’re far more excited about indie projects like Sense, a Kickstarted product by Silk Labs that essentially aims to become your personal assistant. What’s smart about Sense is that it links to your audio systems (specifically, for the time being, to any products by SONOS), as well as to things like your thermostat and your lightbulbs, essentially becoming a central hub for your entire physical Internet.
Our fantasy is quite a long way off, but we’re going to be watching how this develops with interest. What we are particularly keen to see is whether or not big A/V companies actually get shaken out of their torpor, and do something genuinely revolutionary.