Technological change happens at such a rate it can be hard to stay on top of all the newest developments. You’re just getting used to one new service when another comes along and makes the first obsolete. Since VHS won the videotape war with Betamax way back in the eighties, there’s been an ever-increasing turnover of new technologies scrambling over ones that have only been around for what seems a very short length of time. When VHS conquered the video market, they looked set to dominate for years to come, but were almost immediately blown out of the water with the arrival of DVDs and CDs. Of course, not all new tech is successful. Advances keep on coming and the pace of change looks set to keep accelerating into the future.
Streaming services are the big growth area in visual entertainment. Following the rise of cable and digital TV stations, the most significant change has been the adoption of streaming to watch TV programs and films. This type of service appeals because you are no longer restricted by what is on a channel’s schedule, you can just watch whatever you want whenever you want. As long as you have a sufficient broadband signal, you can watch your favorite shows and movies whenever you like, giving the consumer the ultimate choice over their viewing. Companies like Now TV and Direct TV that provide these services have their own name – virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs), and new players are continually entering the market. YouTube is considered to be a vMVPD too, with its vast content all available on demand. As a consequence of the proliferation of channels and services, new companies are emerging looking to take advantage of the almost overwhelming quantity of programming available by providing streamlining solutions for consumers, known as cord-shaving.
Screens and TVs
Recent years have seen a mind-boggling variety of technology utilized in flat screen TVs, and you’ll probably be familiar with things like high definition, 3-D, LED, LCD and Blu Ray. They all seem to have their champions, and some have proved more popular and enduring than others, but again the highest spec TV of a few years ago has seen advancements since. The current trend is 4K TV, which has a screen resolution of 4,000 pixels and is ultra-high definition. Given the drive for an ever more sharp, realistic viewing experience, consumers are likely to be demanding this kind of quality as a minimum on all their viewing devices.
Virtual and augmented reality
The pixel perfect artificial reality of Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s holodeck on the Starship Enterprise may still be some way off, but VR and AR are advancing towards that vision in leaps and bounds. Immersive video games are the most familiar concepts, and this experience can now be shared by players at home and across the Internet. The Merge Cube is a clever AR device that allows you to experience virtual reality scenarios simply and cheaply using an app on your cell phone or the Merge headset. Being able to make use of this kind of technology at home makes it much more accessible for the average consumer, rather than it being the preserve of hardcore gamers, so there’s likely to be a massive take-up of home-based VR and AR applications.
Sony’s Play Station and Microsoft’s Xbox still dominate the gaming console market, but there has been rapid growth in shared gaming platforms such as the Nintendo Switch, and games like Pokémon Go! that use an element of virtual reality. The popularity of shared user experiences and the innovation of being able to go out in the real world to find virtual characters has been such that there is bound to be an expansion of this market. Serious gamers are sticking with their massively powerful custom-built gaming PCs, and in fact building and designing your own has become almost as popular as playing the games. The exterior appearance of gaming tech may not have changed drastically, but the internal technological advances have ensured devices have more processing power and speed. Keyboards are crucial for the lightning quick response times gamers require, and there is a flourishing market for top mechanical models for gamers.
Up, up and away
No matter how old you are, there is bound to be a toy out there that brings a smile to your face. The great thing about tech-based toys is that because they seem clever and complex, they qualify as being suitable for adults. Many people don’t worry about playing with big boys’ toys anyway, and the tech toy industry is a huge business. Drones continue to be popular, with new versions that are themed from popular culture adding an extra dimension to the basic concept. Robots are one of the big movers, with technological developments steadily transforming them into the kind of interactive humanoid beings we have come to know from science fiction. The new Star Wars Stormtrooper robot is a good example of the combination of robotic technology with AR capabilities. The Mekamon fighting robot is eerily lifelike in the way it moves, rather like a spider, and will battle with other robots. If you fancy having a go at building your own robot, the Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit enables you to build your own R2D2 from scratch, and then program it to perform simple tasks. The Anki Overdrive racing cars are a neat combination of a Scalextric type track and racing experience with the interactive capability of an AR app.
These toys are good examples of how AR and VR are crossing over into realms outside the immersion video game sphere. This is the kind of adaptation that is likely to proliferate in the coming years as the technology both improves and becomes more accessible. If you’re not keeping up with all the trends and new developments in tech entertainment, you could be missing out on some truly amazing experiences! Be sure to check out your options in terms of getting on board with the latest tech.