Mar 23, 2022 - Technology

Smart technology is amping up home entertainment

Illustration of a pillow on a couch in the shape of a wifi symbol
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Internet-connected devices are reshaping the way we recreate and entertain ourselves at home, enhancing everything from movie-watching to gaming to working out.

Why it matters: The pandemic has acclimated us to living more of our lives in our houses and apartments. Now, manufacturers of everything from televisions and sound systems to treadmills are trying to bring the sophisticated experience of a professional movie theater or gym into our living rooms.

What's happening: Of all the predictions for how the Internet of Things (IoT) will enhance our lives, the one that experts make with the most confidence is that in-home entertainment will grow more satisfying and immersive.

Now, or in the not-so-distant future:

  • Smart lighting systems may automatically adjust to provide mood lighting for whatever you're doing at home — watching a scary show on Netflix, having a boisterous dance party, gathering round the table for a relaxing family dinner.
  • Home gyms suffused with smart equipment will guide you through your best full-body workout, connect you to a virtual trainer or group exercise class, and transmit real-time data about your progress to a health app.
  • Holographic TVs, which display images in 3D, may transform in-home gaming as well as everyday television-watching — enhancing the way we watch sports, movies and beyond.
  • Smart music systems and soundbars will not only let you play different songs from one room to the next, but also offer even more personalization and recommendations.

"This is a pivotal moment, actually right now this year," for smart home technology, says Mark Benson, head of Samsung's SmartThings U.S., which makes IoT systems for "connected living."

  • The rollout of Matter, an industry connectivity standard for smart home devices, is expected to ensure that the gadgets we buy are interoperable, starting as early as next year.
  • Ideally, you'll be able to control all your devices through one hardware hub connected to a single app — and you'll be able to set things up and program them without needing to call in a professional.

Matter "is a real thing that is happening and that will fundamentally change the [smart home] experience for the mass market user," Benson tells Axios.

  • In the earlier days of IoT, "you really had to be an enthusiast DIY hobbyist person to really fit everything together, understand how it works, and in some cases even do a little bit of programming to get it to work," Benson says.
  • But gradually, setting up all the devices you want is getting easier. In the "post-Matter world, it's about mass household adoption — how everyday consumers can get value from having a smart home and not have to be an expert," Benson says.

Cool stuff in the offing: Mood lighting, which already pervades smart home systems, is poised to become more flexible and nuanced.

  • Connected lights will help you set the scene for the specific movie you're watching, game you're playing or workout you're trying to crush.
  • Already, companies like Nanoleaf offer "smart color-changing light panels, complete with Music Sync and Screen Mirror features for a fully immersive, next-level gaming and entertainment experience."
  • And an existing product from smart lighting maker Philips Hue "lets you create an entertainment setup that wows by syncing Philips Hue lights to the content on your TV screen."

What they're saying: "My prediction is that the future will still be comprised of many of the same kind of pastimes that entertain us today, such as watching and participating in sports, enjoying concerts, games, and movies, as well as base jumping off of the cliffs on Neptune," writes Matthew Griffin, a futurist and founder of the 311 Institute, a consultancy.

  • "But EVERYTHING will be more intense, more vivid, and more individually tailored."

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