Virtual Reality (VR) Headsets

Any discussion of home entertainment these days is incomplete without mentioning the growing presence of Virtual Reality in the living room.  Officially dubbed VR3, because of the failure of the both the 1980’s and 1990’s incarnations, the new VR is light years ahead of its predecessors both in content and acceptance.

In the 1980’s VR Pioneer Jaron Lanier and his partner founded VPL Research, focusing on commercializing virtual reality technologies.  With much media coverage and attendant funding, the company prospered for a few years, but then filed for bankruptcy in 1990.  The products they created were expensive, and without powerful hardware, the software applications were anemic.  The patents were bought by Sun Microsystems in 1999, and likely archived inside some scary robot hidden beneath Bill Joy’s office.

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LED TV Backlight Accent Strips

Since we’re already on the subject of lighting, I decided to look into something that has fascinated me for quite a while and that’s LED back-lighting. It’s one of those subtle things about a movie theater experience that we take for granted. When you find yourself looking for that missing ingredient to recreating the big screen cinema feeling in your home, it just might be the lighting.

What’s currently on the market ranges from the very simple lighting strips, to more advanced units that can fully interact with your content. Much of the latter is still in the development phase, and far more expensive, but what’s out there now gives you plenty of control over how you set the mood. Choices of colors and schema from remote control is pretty much the starting point for what you want to look for in LED Back-lighting.

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TP-Link Smart LED Light Bulb

One of the often overlooked aspects of home theater setups is lighting. I’ve gotten used to using the little lamp in the corner to produce the right amount of light so that I can see whatever I might be snacking on, or to find the controller on the coffee table. Otherwise, I like the room fairly dark. For anyone who’s spent time and money on getting the right gear, the full theater experience isn’t complete unless the lighting is just right.

In the past I’ve had media rooms with recessed lighting and full-on dimmer capabilities, but my space is quite a bit simpler now. Scattered lamps and an overly bright overhead light fulfill the lighting duties of the room. I admit that I’ve been lax in upgrading but I wanted to do the next iteration right, complete with connected devices and voice control.

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Nvidia Shield Streaming Media Player

Online Gaming is something I’ve done since I first got dial-up many years ago.  I started with a Zork derivative back in the early 80’s, and moved on to RP and Social Muds later in the decade. It would be years later when I actually worked in the field myself, that I picked up online gaming again in the form of Asheron’s Call.

For those who play the genre of MMO’s you’re aware of the many benefits and challenges of playing online games. The games today are light years ahead of their ancestors in both content and graphic quality, but the basic issue remains the same – is the game world as responsive as if it were running on my local computer. In gaming, there’s little tolerance for lag.

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IPS LED Backlit Monitor

No matter what sort of electronic media home entertainment you’re into, the most visible component in any setup is the monitor. You can spend a lot of time and money finding exactly the right Mini PC or other Media player, but it won’t amount to much if the output isn’t crisp, clear and bright under all sorts of viewing conditions. If you don’t put in the time to find the right display, you’ll regret it every time you turn it on.

I’ve purchased dozens of monitors over the years, starting with a “green screen” CRT nearly 40 years ago. I’m pretty sure I paid about two hundred and fifty dollars for my first monochrome screen which seems pretty outrageous by today’s standards.   I think I’d be willing to pay about five bucks for that sort of functionality now.

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Echo Dot Voice Controlled Smart Device

Voice enable devices is one of those things I had a hard time warming up to. It probably didn’t help me to see movies like “Her” or 2001:A Space Odyssey; “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” The whole technology just seemed creepily inadequate to serve any useful purpose in my daily life.

On the other hand we have benevolent (and useful) voice enabled computer tech in shows like Star Trek and Knight Rider. Back in the day, I would have bought a Trans Am if I could have gotten it with Kitt.  Sadly, the reality never came close to the science fiction hype.

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Universal Remote Control Receiver

Sometimes there are minor annoyances in our lives that we allow to grow, rather than doing something about it. I can think of plenty of personal examples. When it comes to home entertainment media, one of those minor annoyances that I’ve allowed to percolate is my uncontrollable remote control collection.

As I mentioned in another post, I have a variety of media devices in my living room and I’ve somehow managed to ignore the fact that they each have their own controller. My coffee table is no longer a coffee table, but a repository for electronics controllers. I finally decided to get in control of the situation and find the best solution to consolidate them all.

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Wireless Gaming Chairs

I’ve been a gamer for many years. I’m old enough to remember when Pong was brand new to the market and recall being jealous of my friend’s shiny new Magnavox Odyssey 100. He and I spent a lot of hours knocking that little blip back and forth. I’ve maintained my love of gaming over the years and seen an evolution of graphics and sound that’s truly astounding when I look back at those modest beginnings.

There’s been vast improvements in every area of gaming since then, from sights to sounds to the way you interact with the games. Today’s controllers are designed by ergonomic experts who study the hand movements and player interactions to find just the right form for optimal performance.

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Universal Infrared Remote Control

I enjoy a wide variety of media, but I don’t watch a lot of television. That’s not something I could always say. I used to watch a lot of television. Too much television. I won’t go into all of my reasons for shutting off the tube, but suffice to say it has a lot to do with content. For the past 8 years, I haven’t maintained a subscription to cable or satellite, preferring instead to get my video from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Youtube and other sources.

So when I recently made a move to another State, I surprised myself (and my spouse) by ordering cable TV. As I’m sure nearly everyone in the country is aware of by now, Spectrum has taken over quite a few cable providers. In an effort to woo new customers, they offer better deals when you get combination packages. So when my new broadband service included a very cheap subscription to cable television, it was difficult to say no.

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5.1 Channel Home Theater in a Box

Choices have never been wider in home electronics.  From media players to game systems to projectors, we are faced with a dizzying array of choices.  One of the ways to cut through the noise is to focus on components that make up the heart of any good home entertainment system.  Chief among those is your TV or Monitor.  It’s hard to get very far in your media room without first getting a display.

Once you’ve chosen a proper display, whether it’s a wide screen panel or Home Theater Projector, you’ll want to address the issue of quality audio.  TV and monitor audio has traditionally been designed to be “just adequate” to serve the purpose of providing sound output.  Even though sound has gotten better, if you’re looking for home theater quality out of your system, you’re going to want to look beyond the built-in speakers. Continue reading 5.1 Channel Home Theater in a Box