A few months ago, I dropped cable television and switching to an antenna- and Internet-fed household. Like a growing cohort of cable-cutters, I'm now looking for some equipment to stretch the TV living room experience – either by streaming content from computers or the Internet to living room TV or streaming high definition TV to other devices throughout the home. This week's Tech Gift Guide series will explore those options.
Still, it ain't easy. Most digital homes are a patchwork of routers and extenders, cable lines and power bars and it can take a lot of fiddling and troubleshooting to get a setup performing the way you think it should. I experienced that firsthand as I undertook a little experiment to try geek out my living room.
Below is a discussion with tech expert Michael Snider on the challenges of wiring up your living room with the latest entertainment technology. Mobile users can click here to read.
About eight years ago on a trip to Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash., I toured the Microsoft Home – a condo-sized technoheaven billed as what life might be like for consumers at some point over the next five or 10 years.
The tour started with voice-activated entry through the front door and featured a smart fridge that told you when you were out of milk, ceiling lights that would beam a recipe onto the kitchen counter top and a fully networked entertainment system that followed you from room to room. I was really impressed with the tour, but I recall feeling as though the place had a World Fair sort of feel to it and wondered whether half of the innovations would ever see the light of day. Thinking back, I can't recall seeing a single tablet in the place, though Siri-like voice control was prevalent in almost everything you did.
Nearly a decade later I still use a key on the front door, still write grocery lists on the back of the hydro bill and still don't have lasers in my kitchen (though I suppose Epicurious on the iPad qualifies as a pretty cool advancement).
But the one aspect of the future home that has finally trickled down from Microsoft's concept showroom to the average Canadian's is the ubiquitous presence of entertainment. Many Canadians have wireless networks that can connect computers and devices throughout the home and it's relatively effortless to beam stuff around. The gradual growth of Internet music and video services such as iTunes and Netflix has spurred an increase in the number of homes with non-gaming set-top boxes such as Boxee or Apple TV. And more and more of us are viewing or listening to entertainment on mobile devices – whether it's an iPod/iPhone dock in the kitchen or streaming a movie to a table while tucked into bed.