Technology is transforming home entertainment in a big way, thanks to the big strides being made in developing Artificial Intelligence, advances in the Internet of Things (IoT) and major innovations in gadgets such as mobile phones and televisions.
These far-reaching innovations were on show at the just-concluded World Mobile Congress hosted in Barcelona, Spain, where over 100,000 exhibitors congregated to showcase the big strides they are making in making the globe ever more digital.
One of the more captivating innovations was the 5G connected Billboard known as the FIA One. It is actually a large-screen wireless television that can be used both indoors for entertainment purposes, or outdoors commercially. With this high definition LED display television, whose screen can be as large as 110 inches, a home user will not need routers or set-top boxes. Nor will they need an IP address for their TV sets.
"The Fia One will drive innovation throughout the industry with the excellent visual clarity and advanced picture capabilities," said FIA, the gadget's manufacturer, in a press statement during the launch of the TV in Barcelona last week.
"Compared to the current LCD and OLED technologies, micro-LED offers higher brightness... faster response time; and smaller pixel size."
The small pixel size gives the screen a HD view, meaning that a viewer can see a perfectly clear image no matter where one is sitting or standing in relation to the screen.
Assume there is a live football game. A viewer does not have to sit at a strategic spot to get the best view. Every spot in the room is strategic. And since there are other technologies, such as the ability of a viewer to choose which camera will relay images to his TV, the viewer can choose the angle from which to watch the game. And with the split screen technology it is possible, with this and other TV screens, to get more than one angle simultaneously. That means a viewer can get as good a view as the guest in the VIP box.
Indeed, FIA has signed a partnership with China Unicom, which has been granted exclusive communication services rights for the 2022 Beijing Olympics. That means viewers with the FIA technology at that time might get as good or a better view of the games than those in the stadium.
Those who are not too keen to become addicted to television can try the 5G-enabled bicycles designed by Migu, a Chinese company. Although it looks like an ordinary gym bike, the Migu version is digitally connected to eye-wear that is wirelessly linked to a screen. The eye-wear and screen simulate a racing track with all the rugged features of an outdoor. This allows the rider to race either against digital opponents or real competitors.
"This technology can be used for exercises, sports games or for online competitions with competitors in different countries," said Xu Haohua of Migu.
The bikes have gears, for ease of navigation on the virtual terrain and the software is designed in a way that the riders cannot collide but the competition can be strong enough for everyone in the race to break a sweat.
The entire set, which will be available in the market in the next four months, will cost at least $2,000 (about Sh200,000) or more depending on the number of bicycles one purchases.
Huawei Technologies, one of the biggest exhibitors at the World Mobile Congress this year, also had a near-similar game, only that its version involved a racing boat in a canal. Unlike the Migu bike, the boat does not involve physical activity but hand, eye and mental co-ordination to keep the boat on course at high speeds. Like the bike, this technology also allows for more than one player and also uses both 5G and Artificial Intelligence.
The more adventurous consumer can also try the Home Service Robot designed by Hancom Robotics, a South Korean company. The little robots, which use Artificial Intelligence, stand at about 70 to 80cm tall. Once connected to a Wi-Fi network, they can sing, dance and even tell stories.
What is more, they can make calls and send SMSs and even engage in basic conversations, which means they can be ideal as toys for children or the elderly since they do not involve staring at a screen. And for busy parents, they can act as source of information because they can send messages or call when a child is in distress, say, if he is being spanked by the househelp.
The traditional consumer will also have an option to play more than games with the new 8-inch Mate X, the world's first 5G enabled mobile phone. Unlike any other gadget in its range globally, the Mate X can unfold to create a seamless screen the size of a tablet. Unlike a tablet, however, it has an inbuilt handle that one can hold with one hand while playing games with the other.
When folded, the phone has a screen on either side and because each side has camera, one can take photos from either end. Since it is only 54mm thin, it is allows a user to hold it comfortably whether one is using it for work or play.
One of the biggest challenges faced by those who use their phones for games is that the battery drains out pretty fast. The Mate X comes with two batteries and, thanks to its supercharger, can charge from 0 to 85 per cent in just 30 minutes. But it will come at a steep price — 229 euros — when it hits the market later in the year.
"This phone targets early adopters and developers," Wally Yang, Huawei's director of product marketing and consumer business told Digital magazine as he demonstrated the phone's functionalities.
The long and short of it is that there is no shortage of gadgets for those seeking entertainment indoors, or for that matter, outdoors.
"South Korea and China are leading in 5G technology," Stone He, the Huawei Kenya CEO said in Barcelona. "With 5G, you will not need fiber. 5G will also bring down the cost of connectivity."
Which means that in a few years, what today look like science fiction gadgets will become a reality in many Kenyan homes.