The latest technology in the world is constantly shaping our daily lives. It’s hard to imagine how whole economies and civilisations were built and ran before we had microchips, computers and the internet. Some pretty impressive feats of human engineering even pre-date electricity. Some things remain constant, such as spending time in conversation and the company of friends, family and work colleagues. And having to work of course. But in other ways the tides of technology mean the world we live in today is almost unrecognisable to that of yesteryear.
Can you imagine a world without the telephone, never mind smartphones? Without a television, never mind Netflix and before that cable TV and ever 24-hour terrestrial television? No cars? And before that no steam engine? It’s only a couple of hundred years since books became cheap enough to become relatively widespread. Yes, technology has changed many, if not most, of the aspects of our reality over the past decades and centuries.
And the pace of technological progress is undoubtedly accelerating. And as much as technology often gets criticised for making our lives busier and detracting from our down time, a quick look to the past shows that is not, at least entirely, justified. In the developed world the average person does have down time. It’s not just wake up, work, eat(-ish) sleep, repeat. Which it used to be before technology had got us to the point we have the ‘first world problem’ of an existential struggle with our life/work balance and commute.
We fill much of the down time technology has afforded us with various forms of entertainment. And a lot of that entertainment is itself technology. Even forms of entertainment that are not intrinsically technological are augmented by it. How much of the music we listen to isn’t supported by technology in some way? Television and film developed out of theatre as technological developments provided a new platform for the performing arts.
Even books are now regularly purchased and consumed in electronic format via e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle. The list goes on. But how will the next generation of technology shape how we amuse ourselves during our down time? Here are several of the most exciting technology in entertainment trends that we will all be able to enjoy in coming years. Some of it already exists:
Immersive virtual reality (VR) worlds have been theoretically on the horizon for so long that most of us have lost enthusiasm for a prospective new technology that has yet to really deliver. The VR technology that does already exist, home entertainment headsets such as Facebook-owned Oculus’s Rift, Google’s Daydream, Samsung’s Gear and the PlayStation VR hasn’t quite, it is fair to say, really set the heather on fire yet. However, many sector analysts believe that is set to change over the next couple of years as more impressive games and ‘experiences’ are released. VR headsets for home use promise to finally offer the kind of next level experiences that have been so slow to materialise despite the hype, driving them into the mainstream of home entertainment.
And even more immersive VR entertainment is now coming to market. US VR start-up Void has now added a London location, the Westfield mall in Stratford, to its locations. The company’s ‘3600 hyper-reality’ VR is set in the world of films like Star Wars and Ghostbusters.
A new tie-up with Marvel will launch next year. Users put on a VR headset and noise-cancelling headphones but the real value added is a ‘haptic feedback vest’ that gives the wearer sensations that can range from the feeling an elevator is going up or down to a jolt if shot in the chest during the experience. Scents and touch are also added in, taking the VR to a new level. A battle near a lava pit is accompanied by waft of sulphur and if the player reaches out to touch a droid delivering a ‘briefing’ a matching object will be encountered by their hand.
However, as well as entertainment, Void’s chief creative officer Curtis Hickman believes his company’s technology will also be adapted to more serious uses in the future such as workplace training.
It may not immediately sound like it is tied up with entertainment but next generation facial recognition technology is set to make attendance of concerts and other big events a smoother experience featuring less queuing as well as hopefully cutting down on waiting times at places such as airports. This is evidenced by the acquisition of Blink Identity by Ticketmaster this year.
The start-up’s tech is able, within around half a second, to identify individuals walking past camera points. This will in theory mean that future visits to see your favourite musicians, comedians and any other kind of show that usually involves queueing to show a ticket will see you simply stroll through to your seat uninterrupted.
Next Generation Arenas
U.S. billionaire James Dolan’s company Madison Square Garden has started work on Las Vegas concert venue that will reinvent the live entertainment experience and is likely to be replicated across the world in future years. The MSG Sphere will incorporate 157,000 ‘ultra-directional speakers’, a three-and-a-half-acre spherical ultra-high-res video screen and vibrating floors. If it lives up to its billing it will be a truly insane futuristic venue for live events.
Gaming Just Keeps Getting Better
Computer games have been around for a while but that doesn’t in any way detract from the fact that they just keep getting better and better and can be expected to continue to do so over coming years. For gamers the future is bright and even for those, like this writer, who largely left computer games behind with their teenage years the new publications look so good there is a constant temptation to get back in the saddle.
The quality of the latest gaming technology is still driving huge growth in the industry and esports are a fast rising cultural shift. Many analysts believe that within a generation esports (competitive gaming) could be bigger than traditional sports with more people involved as players and fans and more money in the industry. Purpose-built esports arenas are now being built for fans to watch competitions live and traditional sports businessmen from Michael Jordan to owners of major baseball, basketball and NFL franchises are investing hundreds of millions in new esports franchises.
3D television never really worked and while every year new improvements in contrast and sound are announced by the major brands in home audio visual set-ups the difference tends to be subtle enough that no-one other than real enthusiasts feels the urge to upgrade their TV and speakers too often. However, there is now new visual and sound technology coming through that does promise to make a big leap forward and transform the home experience of watching television and film.
Speakers offering a 3D sound format have been around for a few years but a combination of high cost and a lack of content that is adapted to make the most of the tech has limited penetration. 3D speakers replicate the cinema experience of projecting different sounds at different heights. So a plane’s sound, for example, gives the impression of coming from above your head and drilling from the ground. Home speakers built on 3D sound technology are now available from around £500 and costs can be expected to come down further in coming years. Even more importantly, major content services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple’s 4K TV are now releasing content that tracks the technology.
4K LCD TVs are now starting to mainstream but the next generation of TVs promises to blow even those away for overall visual experience. Samsung’s prototype TV ‘The Wall’ is 12 foot across and comprised of micro-LED panels stitched together. The resulting picture is both brighter and blacker than the technology competitors are experimenting with and Samsung is now working on commercial units of different shapes and sizes. A 6-foot version that is just over an inch deep is rumoured to be planned for the mass market in time for Christmas 2019.
There are of course many more technological developments connected to entertainment in the works than those mentioned here. CGI and AI are already bringing deceased performers back to life for concerts but it can be imagined that this nascent technology will in future years advance to the point where it will genuinely be hard to tell the difference between a Freddy Mercury, Amy Winehouse or Kurt Cobain concert brought back to life through technology and the real thing of yesteryear. Interactive television, streaming models breaking down international ‘rights’ barriers and making live sporting events more accessible around the world and ever more advanced VR and augmented reality will all impact how we entertain ourselves in future years.
And there surely will be new forms of entertainment based on new technology platforms that we can’t even imagine now. Some will come to market faster than others and there will be delays to other technologies that mean they, like VR, are perhaps slower to market than we might have hoped. But one thing is certain – technology will keep entertaining us in ever more sophisticated ways. There will inevitably be criticism of some of it but there will also inevitably be a lot of technology-based fun to be had.