AMD’s accidental future home vision

Posted by Rob Enderle

Last week at CES there was one presentation that prompted me to think more about the future than any other exhibit - but not exactly in the way the vendor originally intended.   

This presentation was in the AMD experience center which was out in the parking lot of the Los Vegas Convention center. I think, inadvertently, it actually represented a big aspect of the home of the future. Let’s talk about what the industry heavyweight did showcase and the more powerful vision I ultimately walked away with. 


 

A Cabin In a Virtual Word

You walked through a door in what was a display showcase of systems soon to be out using AMD technology and into what appeared to be a log cabin. The windows were large (around 65”) HD displays placed around the room, showcasing a 360 degree view of a virtual farm. The demonstration was of positional audio and there were 52 speakers placed around the room and tied into the demonstration. First they ran a sequence in stereo then in full positional audio.

The scenario was of a hostage crisis and in stereo your eyes tended to follow the action. A delivery truck went screaming around the house several hostages were led out of the van by armed masked gunmen and out into a building. Then police cars came screaming up, a battle ensued where the police seemed to have been bested. The outbuilding was destroyed and the final police chopper was shot out of the air. It appeared as if the bad guys won. 

With positional audio on the perspective changed dramatically because you could follow the sound. A new story soon emerged: Police were the criminals and the masked gunmen were government agents, the hostages were rescued and the fleeing helicopter (which I totally missed the first time) with government markings shot down the fake police chopper.   

The whole presentation was to showcase that with positional audio you could be far more effective in first person shooters, or combat based MMOs because you were far less likely to be surprised by an unseen attack coming from any direction. Cool, but definitely not as cool as the potential. 

House of the Future or Living In Hawaii or on Mars and Commuting to New York

I’m in the process of looking at building a house in Belize, within an area that occasionally experiences somewhat of a hurricane problem. During our first round of planning, the initial bid price for 15 hurricane rated windows was approximately $120,000 for the parts alone. Now 4K TVs are close to perfect in terms of resolution and the upcoming 8K TVs will likely be even more indistinguishable from window perfect, especially when paired with a video source or HD camera. 

If you were to replace those 15 windows with Ultra HD TVs for about the same cost or less, you would not only have a more secure solution (as good as hurricane rated glass is, a solid cement block wall is better) and you could have taped or live images from anywhere in the world displayed on them.  

Now if you coupled this with positional sound so that the birds and features (like springs, waterfalls, rain, birds, and the occasional T-Rex) sounded as well as looked real, you’d have an amazing, unmatched dynamic scene - all while displaying an experience that was as flexible as you imagination. Want to wake up to a Martian or World of Warcraft sunrise? No window could do that but this system surely could.

Have kids who are afraid of monsters? Well, they could be visibly guarded by unicorns at night. Want a unique alarm clock, how about a robin knocking at your window, or if you are a deep sleeper, or perhaps a troll taking a hammer to the glass?

The house would be safer and potentially more energy efficient because you wouldn’t have window air leaks, nor glass that is fairly easy to break in through. Granted, in the case of fire you might have additional problems, so perhaps a door or two could be added. However, if the TVs are equipped with occupancy sensors, current low powered standby and LED lit screens, you would likely be greener, safer, and have views that  rival those enjoyed by billionaires. 

How about a 360 underwater view or a view from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro?   Granted if you are afraid of the ocean or heights that could be an issue as would a live international space station feed. But you’d need both the Ultra High Definition image and the Positional Sound (except in space where no one can hear you scream) to make this work believably.  

The Future Virtual Home

TVs will only become more capable in the future, and the fact that AMD actually came close to doing this at CES suggests this solution is just waiting for someone to put it together. While AMD was trying to showcase positional audio, they may have inadvertently announced the end of residential windows as we know them. 

Remember, part of CES is about dreaming about the future and, thanks to AMD, I’m now imagining a future where my living room view is actually Tolkien's vision of Rivendell.