Watching sci-fi, fantasy and futuristic films always have a bittersweet element to them – mostly because I love seeing the great technology that writers think up but am ultimately disappointed when I realize just how far off we are from getting those gadgets made.
In 1989, Back to the Future II created a tech-savvy 2015 filled with hover boards, flying cars, auto-adjusting clothing and pizzas that expand from the size of a fist to double-deluxe in a few seconds. While we have added smart phones, digital wallets, Google Earth and Kindles, we are still a long way off from where movie makers wanted us to be – well we do have three years inventors, lets get on it.
While we may not have flying cars, there is one Back to the Future II concept that could be a lot closer to becoming a reality – the personalized living room entertainment center.
I caught up with some research and development innovators from NDS Group (a provider in video software and content security) to see how they are attempting to renovate the living room experience to welcome more personalization and technology without feeling like you are in a control room.
NDS mocked up a futuristic living room, probably not too unlike your living room, except that one wall was comprised of several flatscreen TV panels that work together to create a large computer dashboard on you wall and those screens, the room lighting, and the sound system can be controlled by any iPad or smartphone running their system.
And when those screens aren't running all the widgets and programs you love, then they can either be turned off or mimic the surrounding paint or wallpaper for a TV-less look to the room.
NDS’ CMO, Nigel Smith, explained to me that creating a living room for the near future was a research project at the company and that they were working on a way to pitch this type of service to help cable companies combat the growing desire to “cut the cord” and look elsewhere for regular entertainment in the home.
“We saw a big gap in how cable companies could increase their value in the home,” Smith explained. “Since they are already setting up the cable, Internet and other services in the home, why not provide this place where they all insect and increase their own value?”
This new proposed living room would be entirely customizable to each home so that you can get as many screens as you see fit and connect them to your Internet, cable, sound system, lighting, and other devices to create living experience.
Say it was early morning and you walk into the living room, what type of information would you be looking for on your TV, computer, or phone. Perhaps the weather, the traffic reports, what the days headlines are, your calendar events and maybe even what time the next bus is that runs outside your house.
A user can set it so that, with one click on their phone, the living room display shows several widgets with those exact things on them, has the volume level set low and put the lights up to full capacity. Sounds like a dream to me.
Users can set their preferences based on time of day, day of the week and user – all of which can be adjusted or overwritten on the spot.
And no more searching for your remote – any phone or iPad in the house can control the displays.
When NDS showed this capability to cable content providers and other businesses, the excitement was palpable.
The company created a mock set-up for what interactive shows like “X Factor” could do with their digital packaging and delivery process.
Shows that are social media events can connect their Twitter hashtags to the screen so that the video content can be viewed front and center while the feeds scroll on one side and people can vote by clicking a tab on the bottom – or purchase the song being sung with another easy click.
Can you say a marketers dream?
“With so many programs loosing eyes to people scrolling around on second screens, there is a lot of interest in tying everything up together to keep viewers captivated,” NDS’ CTO Nick Thexton said. “This becomes an easy way for viewers to get answers to their questions and show creators are better able to market extensions of their brand.”
The combinations of personalization seem endless for TV and movie producers – movies are even able to tailor how the lights in the living room adjust (or flicker) during a movie that may be especially dramatic or frightening.
Currently NDS is working on how to leverage a new, higher level of high-definition, called 4K, that is quadruple the definition of HD and can provide an even more realistic experience once more content is produced at that level.
And, while the living room would be the biggest market for this new technology and experience, NDS also hopes to use this display to market to businesses as a conference wall or a lobby display.
Just a few weeks ago, NDS announced that is was being acquired by Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) to the tune of $5 billion, which could accelerate the use of its project on conference calling and other business activities.
While the final product coming to a home near you could still be a few years away, and look a bit different than the mock-up, I still had to put my name down for willing candidates for beta-testing. Who could resist?