Will it be any less fragmented? For now, there are tools to wrangle it all together?
It’s hard not to be wowed by today’s 4K TVs, living room projectors, and multi-room sound systems. And between Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, HBO Now, Shudder, FilmStruck, and the myriad of internet TV services, it’s easy to bombard ourselves with entertainment options beyond the traditional walls of cable. But we’re still living in a fragmented world that requires hopping between apps, remembering what show is where, and keeping tabs on content that might suddenly disappear at the end of each passing month. Even Alexa is affected; you might be able to play Amazon Music on basically any Alexa-enabled device, but something as essential as Spotify support varies depending on the product.
We’ve seen some fascinating attempts to leapfrog the limitations and frustrations of today’s entertainment platforms and streaming devices. Take the Caavo, for example. This $400 “remote of the future” uses machine vision to operate all the gadgets plugged into your TV (and the TV itself) by automatically doing the grunt work of switching inputs, opening the right episode, and hitting play — all with a single voice command. It actually understandswhat’s happening on your TV screen. It doesn’t (and can’t) eliminate all the menus and steps necessary to start streaming something; it just handles those tedious steps for you. And you thought your Logitech Harmony remote was fancy.
In today’s episode of Home of the Future, you’ll see how home integrators have managed to do the best they can with what they’ve got right now by wrangling home theater components, smart home gadgets, and streaming platforms under a single interface — in this case from a company called RTI. A Roku is the central video device, and you can even see its remote displayed on RTI’s iPad software below.
And where would we be without voice commands and universal search? Ordering your Fire TV or Apple TV to start playing your latest favorite Netflix series or round up movies starring a certain actor — spanning all the streaming catalogs — are some mighty convenient powers to have. Still, hopefully in 5, 10, or 20 years, sitting down to relax and find some entertainment won’t feel so splintered.
Some companies are already making things a little more cohesive: with its Prime Video Channels, Amazon lets you subscribe to HBO, Showtime, CBS All Access, Shudder, and other services and keep everything on the same bill instead of being overwhelmed by an avalanche of recurring charges every month. Apple is rumored to be exploring a similar model. For now, Apple has its TV app, which aggregates the shows and movies you have access to and brings them all together. You still get kicked out to other streaming apps once a show starts playing, but there’s no avoiding that… yet. If you’re watching a Netflix show, you’re gonna see that Netflix splash screen.
The screens we fixate our eyes on are only going to become better and better showcases for that content. Top-grade 4K TVs are cheaper than ever, and tech giants like Samsung are already building modular, MicroLED televisions that could someday be customizable to any size you need. 8K is also a thing these companies continue to push, but whether it’ll prove worthy of our home of the future (or yours) remains questionable.