News / Media

Biggest Home Technology Trends from 2011 - Part 1

From streaming media to 3D TV, this has been an interesting year.

December 20, 2011 | by Grant Clauser

As the year comes to a close, it’s traditional to come out with lists of the best, worst, most interesting, most dull, etc. stories of the past year. Lucky for Electronic House, 2011 has been a pretty exciting year for home technology. We rounded up our favorite trends and controversies for a quick year-in-review of some of the biggest stories of 2011 as well as a few thoughts on where some of these trends may be taking us.

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Passive Aggressive

When LG first announced their plans to offer 3D TVs using passive polarized glasses, we were skeptical due to the resolution compromise of the technology. But when we tried the TV out ourselves we were convinced that it’s a viable option. So were a lot of other people, at least according to LG’s research. In fact, LG used that research to launch some fighting words on Sony, which fought back. So far, active-shutter glasses 3D still provides the superior picture. Still, we expect more passive systems to come in 2012 and possible even some 4K resolution TVs that solve passive systems’ problems.

Is the iPad replacing the touch panel?

As more control and automation companies offer apps, more customers ask why they can’t just use their iPads to operate their systems rather than the more expensive dedicated touchpanels. There are pros and cons on both sides of the issue, but it boils down to the fact that a tablet designed for a wide range of uses doesn’t always make a good primary control device (jack of all trades, master of none). Well, if your control system is designed around iOS it might, as seen in this Savant-controlled home.

Flex Theaters

The home theater was the place for the big screen and projector, while the media room or family rom held the flat panel TV. Why, because people in the family room didn’t want to hang in total darkness like bats. Chalk it up to sports and video games, but big-screen projectors have left the basement theater and joined the rest of the family. Projectors are getting brighter, smaller and quieter, making them more family-room friendly than ever before. While we still love a dedicated theater, a family room with a 100-inch screen is also a great place to watch Wednesday night television.

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Posted by chantal Thu, 29 Dec 2011 17:21:00 GMT

Core 3

Core 3 UI enables the generation of dynamically rich user interfaces with greater power and efficiency. Effortlessly integrate fluid gestures-driven navigation, scrolling lists that bounce, H.264 streaming video, and SIP voice communications. And all this new capability actually comes at a lower cost, cutting programming time by up to 40%!You have the absolute best solutions at your disposal to surpass anything on the market, and now Core 3 UI empowers you to be even more competitive by offering truly amazing custom GUIs in less time.

Posted by chantal Wed, 28 Dec 2011 19:41:00 GMT

Total Control at your Fingertips

NOVEMBER 15, 2011 by Murray Slovick

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Consumer electronics and home appliances are of little use if they cannot easily be controlled. There are a variety of ways to do so and we are familiar with most: switches, push buttons, keyboards, knobs and slider controls are all part of our everyday life.

Recently, however, touch interfaces have become popular and are now widely adopted in a variety of consumer-facing products ranging from smartphones and tablets, to ATMs and even plasma TVs. Touch elements do not contain moving parts, and unlike conventional control solutions, no holes or other openings are necessary where dust and dirt can enter the device.

Two technologies, capacitive and resistive, comprise the vast majority of today’s touchsensing applications. We’ll look at both technologies to explore how they detect touch and weigh their advantages and disadvantages.

Capacitive Touch

Capacitive touch sensors are used in consumer products such as digital audio players, laptop track pads, computer displays and, increasingly, mobile phones. In contrast to mechanical contacts, capacitive touch sensors do not require force to trigger a response. The science principal behind capacitive touch is pretty straightforward: when two electrically conductive objects come near one another without touching, their electric fields interact to form capacitance. When a user touches a screen or pad with his finger, the charge on the capacitive layer changes. This change can be detected by a measurement circuit and converted into a signal sent to a microcontroller for processing.

Capacitive sensors are constructed on a single glass layer with a conductive and transparent coating such as indium tin oxide (ITO) on one side. In touchscreen applications the sensing pads are placed above the display, so the user can touch the screen directly.

The capacitive system transmits about 90 percent of the light from the monitor. On the whole, capacitive touch sensors are not as accurate as resistive touch sensors (covered next) and are relatively more expensive. Environmental factors (temperature, humidity) also can affect the capacitance value. But sensors often are calibrated to account for these and other variations. What’s more, electrical interference and stray capacitance can hamper capacitive touch sensing performance, so the sensing electronics are usually placed as close as possible to the sensing spot and conductive material is kept away from the sensor.

Multi-touch input, defined as the ability to recognize two or more simultaneous touch points on a single display, is widely available for capacitive-type touch sensing. This allows users to pinch and zoom for ease of readability, which was popularized in devices such as iPods and iPhones. (Incidentally, multitouch was invented in 1982 at the University of Toronto and not by Apple, as many people believe.)

Resistive Touch

Resistive touchscreens account for more than 75 percent of the touchscreen market, mainly because they have simpler structures than capacitive touch. Resistive touchscreens have a flexible top layer and a rigid bottom layer. The top flexible layer is coated on its inside with a conductor and the bottom supporting layer of glass is also coated with a conductor (again, indium tin oxide).

In its static state the two layers are not in contact with each other but are separated by a thin space consisting of a non-conductive separator material. When a user presses on the top sheet, pressure causes the conductive sides to come into contact with one another, effectively closing a circuit. The resulting voltages can be measured in more than one direction and a controller can calculate the x-y coordinate of the point of touch.

In touchscreen applications the existence of two layers also results in a loss of brightness, usually between 10 and 20 percent. Another disadvantage of resistive touch technology is its shorter lifespan due to mechanical wear and tear.

Until recently, unlike capacitive touch alternatives, resistive technology has not been able to support multi-touch. But this may be changing. Rohm Semiconductor has produced a resistive touch controller that can handle multi-touch, albeit with a maximum of two touches registered at once, enough for simple gesture recognition, including pinching, spreading and rotating. And Texas Instruments offers a resistive touchscreen controller designed to work with low-power handheld products. Unlike other resistive touch controllers, TI’s TSC2020 can detect at least three touches simultaneously and supports up to a three-by-five-inch touchscreen array.

As noted, touch technology requires a sensor IC to detect touch events and a microcontroller (MCU) to receive detection data and process the resulting information. Sometimes one IC can handle both tasks.

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Posted by chantal Tue, 27 Dec 2011 18:43:00 GMT

Holiday Gift Guide 2011 Part 17

2011 Holiday Gift Guide brought to you by Electronic House!

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Sony Personal 3D Viewer

At Electronic House we’ve frequently said that 3D is best viewed on a BIG screen. A puny 32-inch TV just isn’t large enough to fully appreciate 3D. So what about one so small you can fit it in your backpack? Sony’s personal 3D Viewer may be small, but when you put it on it offers a picture that’s equal to a 150-inch TV. The unit includes two separate OLED screens, each with 720p resolution, a fast refresh rate and no 3D crosstalk. Hook it up via HDMI to your 3D Blu-ray player or PS3 to enjoy 3D without the need to hang a huge screen on the wall.

TomTom GO2535 LIVE GPS

Not only will a GPS navigator help you find your way to new places, the GO LIVE service will give you up-to-date traffic reports and help steer you around problems to save you time. Other features include local fuel prices, Google search, weather and more with LIVE Services. It also includes built-in Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone calls.

Disney Appmates Cars 2 Set

As if there weren’t enough reasons for your children to want to use your iPad. Disney Appmates are physical little vehicles that interact with their own downloadable app from the iTunes store. Your kids can pretend they a driving as Lightning McQueen with interactive games that use these little cars as the touch interface on the iPad screen.

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Posted by chantal Wed, 21 Dec 2011 17:07:00 GMT

Holiday Gift Guide 2011 Part 16

2011 Holiday Gift Guide brought to you by Electronic House!

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Olive O3 Music Server

iPod’s are good enough for most people, but do you have a truly discerning music lover on your gift list? Olive’s O3 music server doesn’t need professional installation, but it sounds like an audiophile component. The hard drive can hold up to 1,500 CDs. It can deliver sound quality up to 24-bit/192kHz with a high-quality DAC and built-in low-noise CD mechanism. Load your music with a computer or rip CDs directly. The color screen makes finding your music easy or you can use the free app.

RCA Wall Charger

If you’ve ever torn the house apart looking for a charger, then you’ll be able to appreciate this gadget. The charging station can replace any standard outlet and offers an instant USB connection to charge your gadgets so you don’t need to depend on your computer anymore. This is especially nice for iPhone users who found their new iPhones didn’t come with an AC adapter.

Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tablet

Sure the iPad gets all the attention, but what if you’re not a trend follower. Maybe you know a tech-enthusiast who wants to stand out from the crowd. A Samsung Android tablet will do that, and the company’s 10.1 model does it the best. It’s large, includes a gorgeous screen, two cameras and all the Android Marketplace apps you need.

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Posted by chantal Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:26:00 GMT

Holiday Gift Guide 2011 Part 15

2011 Holiday Gift Guide brought to you by Electronic House!

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JVC Everio GZ HM960BUS

Why worry about the lack of 3D movies for your 3D TV when you can just make your own? The JVC Everio GZ-HM960BUS camcorder records in 2D but then converts the video in the camera to 3D, giving you 3D TV creation for less money. Video gets recorded on 16GB of on-board memory or you can add an SD card for more storage. Built-in Bluetooth and an image stabilization feature add to the camera’s tricks. A high-sensitivity step-up Full HD camcorder with 16GB internal Flash memory and an SDXC card slot featuring 10.62MP Back-illuminated CMOS Sensor and F1.2 Super Bright & 29.5mm Wide Angle JVC HD GT LENS for powerful low-light performance. Also Built-in Bluetooth(R) Wireless Technology and Enhanced Advanced Image Stabilizer deliver a range of shooting possibilities.

Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire is not merely a device for reading electronic books, but it’s not a full-fledged Android tablet either. It’s something in between. On the Fire you’ll find apps for enjoying Amazon content including books, videos and music, plus other social networking apps, Netflix, Pandora, Hulu Plus, web browsing and games. The color screen makes it the best-looking Kindle ever, and the price makes it very competitive with other readers and tablets alike.

LG ST600 Smart Upgrader

If you don’t have a smart TV yet and don’t plan to buy one soon, you don’t have to miss out on all the online content. LG’s Smart TV Upgrader is a simple HDMI box that brings all the apps and services of a smart TV to any entertainment system. With this gadgets you can watch Netflix, listen to Pandora, play online games—pretty much anything a full-fledged smart TV offers.

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Posted by chantal Mon, 19 Dec 2011 17:31:00 GMT

Audio Impact Installation of the week: 85 inch TV Installation

Audio Impact specializes in San Diego, Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla Home Theater.

Our client wished to updated their existing NEC 65” Plasma for a Panasonic 85” 3D-TH-85VX200U 3D TV. Audio Impact upgraded the control system to a Crestron TPS-6X. The TV had to be hoisted up with a crane as it’s so massive. The wall that it was mounted on had to be reinforced with backing to allow the OmniMount PAN85PRO wall tilting mount to be secured. To enhance the sound in the room the speaker were upgraded to Monitor Audio Platinum PL300 Floor standing speakers, featuring ribbon transducers. These speakers were matched up with a Integra DHC-80.3 and Sunfire aAmplifier.

The end result is a easy to use system, with phenomenal picture and sound.

Below are the links to the products used:

Panasonic 3D-TH-85VX200 3D TV

Crestron TPS-6X Remote

Monitor Audio Platinum PL300 Speakers

Integra DHC 80.3 Preamplifier

Omnimount PAN85PRO Wall Mount

Posted by chantal Fri, 16 Dec 2011 17:48:00 GMT

Holiday Gift Guide 2011 Part 14

2011 Holiday Gift Guide brought to you by Electronic House!

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Fuse PowerSlice

What family doesn’t have an odd assortment of cell phones and iThings that need to be charged? Is the kitchen counter covered with a tangle of incompatible power cords. The PowerSlice can charge four devices at once while only taking up one of your wall’s power outlets. On the PowerSlice you get three places to dock phones or iPods on difference slices plus one USB port for plugging in something like a Flip camera.

Hannspree Polar Bear TV

Kids are so tough to shop for. They want gadgets and they want toys. Hannspree has combined both in their line of oddly-fashioned HDTVs. We like the 19-inch Polar Bear TV the best as it would work for both boys and girls, but you can also select from camels, crabs, zebras, apples, basketballs and more. The TVs sports a 1400 x 900 resolution, 700:1 contrast ratio and 2 HDMI inputs for a cable box, Blu-ray player or videogame system.

iPhone 4S

There are lots of smart phones, but there’s only one with Siri. Siri is Apple’s new voice-control feature for the iPhone4S and it’s the main reason to ungrade to the newest model. With Siri you just speak into your phone for everything from Web searches, text messages to the questions on the meaning of life. Of course it does all the other good iPhone things like play music, take pictures and offer the largest selection of smart phone apps.

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Posted by chantal Thu, 15 Dec 2011 17:14:00 GMT

Holiday Gift Guide 2011 Part 13

2011 Holiday Gift Guide brought to you by Electronic House!

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Julius Dance Machine

Gift giving is monkey business. At least it will be with the Paul Frank Julius Dance Machine. This may look like a toy, but the parts that count were actually developed by high-end speaker company Speakercraft. The result is a fun little iPod dock that sounds really good. You can use it with the included power cord or take it on the go thanks to a built-in rechargeable battery. Inside are two 2.5-inch speaker drivers. Unfortunately it doesn’t actually dance.

Omnimount Tablet Mount

Tired of propping your iPad against the toaster in the kitchen? With the Omnimount IES1, you can display your iPad or Android tablet on a stand, or attach it to a wall or desktop mount, for a hands-free option and more space on your counter, desk or nightstand. The unit features a rotating head so you can switch it from landscape to portrait orientation. It fits tablets from 7.4-inches to 9.8 inches (sorry Galaxy 10.1) and cab be attached to a standard VESA 100x100 mount.

Epson Megaplex

Just because the screen on your iPod or iPad is small, doesn’t mean the videos stored on it have to stay that way. Hook your iDevice to Epson’s MegaPlex projector so you can view your videos on a big screen or wall. MegaPlex comes in two versions. Both are LCD-based projectors with full-sized lamps (not pico projectors) capable of lighting up screens up to 100 inches.

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Posted by chantal Wed, 14 Dec 2011 17:11:00 GMT

Holiday Gift Guide 2011 Part 12

2011 Holiday Gift Guide brought to you by Electronic House!

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HiFiMan 101 Portable DAC

The HiFIiMAN 101 is for people who want their iPod music to sound better even when they’re on the go and away from their home music system. This matchbox-sized device offers a signal-to-noise ratio of 96dB with 0.07 percent total harmonic distortion. It connects to you iDevice with USB and features a headphone jack. Also use it for listening to music from your PC over headphones.

HOM One Foundation

The One Foundation, from HOM’s Destiny collection, is one cool-looking pod dock. It’s an Apple AirPlay-compatible speaker bar made of polished FSC-certied wood. The sound is delivered by two 5.25-inch woofers and two one-inch tweeters. In addition to the standard pod dock, there’s an AUX connection for other devices and a remote.

IZON Camera

Give someone a little peace of mind for the times they’re away and can’t keep their eyes on everything. The iZone Remote Room Monitor is a small IP-based surveillance camera that connects to your wireless network. It works in conjunction with an iPhone/iPad app so you can keep an eye on your home when you’re not around. It’s also great for watching your kids play while you’re in another room.

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Posted by chantal Tue, 13 Dec 2011 17:10:00 GMT