home entertainment technology

Advances in Home Entertainment

When it comes to our entertainment systems, we all want the best of the best –the perfect picture, the highest quality sound. However, if you don’t know the terms to look for, shopping for the best equipment for your home entertainment system can be a challenge. Once you learn expressions such as OLED, Quantum Dot Display, and HDR, the whole process becomes just a little bit easier.

The term OLED, meaning organic light-emitting diode, refers to a type of television or monitor that isn’t backlit, at least not in the sense that most of us are used to. The pixels in the screen can be controlled independently because they each have their own current, allowing for a greater contrast ratio and more precise imaging. HDR –or high dynamic range –is used to describe how, when a video is shot, a greater contrast between light and shadow is captured, allowing for a wider spectrum of colour to appear on your television. As much as the phrase Quantum Dot Display sounds like something out of Star Trek, its actually describes plates of Nano-crystals in your television between the backlight and the LED panel that enhances the varying shades of colour, allowing for greater depth of the image.

Now for every great imaging system, there is an equal and complementary sound system. Up until last year, most television companies neglected advancing the technology in their speaker systems in favour of high-definition images. However, this year audio companies have stepped in to create better and better sound to improve your home theatre. What you are looking for is something that has high-resolution audio –a term that was originally coined by Sony. Systems like the LG® MusicFlow which will allow you connect almost any type of speaker to your home network and control them through an app on your smart phone. The upside about connecting multiple speakers around your living room is that you can better replicate the type of sound that you would hear in a movie theatre. The downside is that stocking your room with speakers is that it gets pretty costly pretty quickly. However, one of the leading movie theatre audio companies, DTS, has been working hard in the advancement of audio technology and is, in doing so, revolutionizing the sound bar industry. DTS’s new sound bar technology tricks your brain into thinking it is hearing crisp surround sound when it’s actually being produced by a solitary bar under your television. Because of this advancement, soon even more cost effective sound bars will be of a much higher quality.

sleep home

Home technologies for better sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep seems to be almost out of reach for the majority of the population these days –despite the necessity of sleep to keep us functioning at optimal levels, from lowering blood pressure to helpings regulate our appetite and increase our everyday productivity. Unfortunately, all the glorious technology at our fingertips can disrupt the body’s sleep schedule, making it difficult to achieve full REM sleep. Although most gadgets should be considered a big mistake when it comes to improving your sleeping habits, there are a few pieces of tech that can help make the process a little easier.

One of the first things most sleep experts would recommend is a sound machine, a device that is often marketed as a device to play soft noises for babies to help them sleep through the night. Typically their purpose is to recreate the sounds heard within the womb in order to ease babies into a state of emotional wellbeing. Although the idea of a sound machine, sound soother, or conditioner may seem unappealing for some, there is some solid science behind the playing of white noise or pink noise (a softer variation of white noise) to help you fall asleep and stay asleep, and, luckily, they come in a variety of more grown up sounds like the ocean, the rain, and whale songs. You can find various types of sound machines in any home store or baby store, but if you aren’t the type to run out and buy one without trying it, there are a number of apps available for download onto your phone that will do the trick.

Tracking your sleep is another method of encouraging better sleeping habits. There a variety of wristband trackers that will not only measure how long you sleep but the quality of your sleep, how many times you wake up during the night, and whether you are sleeping deeply or lightly. Most sleep trackers can also sync up to an app on your phone so that you can view all your recorded data and compare it with factors such as your diet and your caffeine intake. These devices make it easy to adjust your daily routine in order to permanently improve your sleeping habits.

Lighting is another factor that can have massive effects on your sleep quality. When there is too much light in a room while you are trying to sleep, your body is prevented from producing melatonin, meaning that what sleep you are getting isn’t very restful. We’ve all heard that the blue light that is emitted from our phones and computer screens can also prevent our bodies from manufacturing melatonin, but slightly less known is that soft orange light can actually increase melatonin production. Investing in a small lamp or device that emanates these particular light waves can benefit your body in the long run and lead to a deeper and more peaceful REM sleep.

baby technology

Baby Tech

Regardless of experience, having a new baby brought in the world (whether yours or someone else’s) is enough to give everyone parenting jitters. You never really know what you need until you needed it five minutes ago. However, with advancements in all kinds of technology being made every day, there is no shortage of gadgets to make caring for baby easier and while no one can say that they really need them, they rank pretty high on the wish list.

When it comes to cool tech for your baby, there is nothing g quite as extravagant or as indispensable as a formula maker or preparation machine. If you aren’t quite sure what a formula maker is, think of an espresso machine or your favourite Keurig but specifically for your baby. These nifty little devices take a lot of the guesswork out of prepping your baby’s formula –they boil the water in advance to remove any impurities before cooling it to a drinkable temperature, mixing it with the correct amount of your preferred brand of powdered formula. Most machines, like the Baby Brezza® Formula Pro and the Born Free® Bottle Genius, have reservoirs for the unprepared powder as well as the water so that at the push of a button, your bottle will be concocted and ready for baby’s dinnertime.

If your little one is moving away from bottle-feeding towards a more solid diet, meal prep becomes a bit different but don’t worry, there are plenty of gadgets for this stage of your child’s development as well. The notorious Baby Bullet® and the Baby Brezza® One Step Baby Food Maker are just a couple of the options for making your own baby food at home. Not only do they help with the actual food prep, but they provide systems for storage and keeping track of food expiration dates to make mealtimes just a little bit easier.  

Feeding, however, is just one aspect of childcare. Making sure your little one is meeting all your sleep needs is a huge challenge for most parents. Devices such as the Sleep Sheep, which produces soothing sounds to help lull your baby off to dreamland, are excellent as a first step in regulating sleep patterns. It has a soft, fuzzy exterior for cuddling and plays four different sounds –white noise, ocean, mother’s heartbeat, and whale song –which can be set to automatically shut off after 23 or 45 minutes. Getting to sleep is only half the challenge; the other half is staying asleep. Although no one can force a child to sleep more than their body will allow, the Gro Clock can help you teach your child to stay in bed until it’s time to get up. Its face changes from blue to yellow and will light up to let your little one know that they can get out of bed, preventing them from waking you up early.

If you’re looking for something that can do a little bit of everything, the adan + anais® serenity star is a system that’s meant to aid in both sleeping and feeding. It acts as a sound machine, a nightlight, a room thermometer, and it can record when you last fed your baby (and from what side, if you’re nursing).

zen home

Essentials for a High-tech home

With technological upgrades taking over the world a little bit more every day, it can be hard to adapt to our new environment. Technology is a fickle thing and that makes stepping into the future with the latest gear to make your home a smart home is no simple task. The first thing you need is a Hub –a place by which you can run the show, the bridge, the command station, enter various Sci-fi references here. Your hub can take all of the various languages that your technology uses to communicate (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.) and translates them so that you only need one app to control your world. Something as simple as upgrading your television to a 4k TV (the picture is about 4 000 pixels wide, resulting in super high definition images) can set you ahead of the curve. Of course, if super high-def. isn’t your thing, you can opt instead for a Smart TV, which can connect to your Hub. It is Wi-Fi enabled and thereby allows you to access an entire world beyond antiquated cable.  

A new set of blinds can further propel you into the world of smart technology –you see them in the movies –blinds that you can control with a push of a button allowing you to block out the sun for a little extra shut eye or bring in a little mood lighting. You can even connect it to systems that will schedule when the blinds should be open and closed so that you don’t even have to bother with the buttons. Of course, if natural lighting isn’t your thing, there are a number of ways to connect the light fixtures in your home to your smart phone –adjusting the brightness, the warmth, and even the colour of your bulbs just by tapping your touch screen.

An upgraded thermostat and heating system can allow basic things like room temperature can also be controlled by the push of a button or the touch of a smart phone. If your room still isn’t as state-of-the-art as you would like, your ceiling fan can also be connected to your smart phone to cool down your room on those hot summer nights when you’re too tired to get out of bed. If you plan on stepping up your home tech game, there are companies who are working on smart flooring that can track your movement and even light up in different colours to change the ambiance in the room.

Cool new tech isn’t just for you, though. If you’re a pet kind of person, there’s some gear out there that’s for both you and your furry little one. The Petcube® allows you to view your little fur-baby when you’re away or at the office so you never have to miss them too much. However, if you want to be more interactive, the PetChatz® allows your pet to see you too so that you can talk to them, or even feed them a treat.

Essentials for a Zen Home

In a fast paced world in which we are either critiqued or valued by how quickly we can go from point A to point B, it’s easy to forget to take a moment to ourselves to relax and unwind. Our houses become a temporary stop to rest before we return to the daily hustle and bustle rather than being our homes and our sanctuaries. With the help of some technology, we can restore a little peace and tranquility to our homes and thereby, hopefully, bring a little more Zen to our everyday lives.  

Aromatic diffusers are fantastic for adding scent to any room. They are part humidifier, part air fresher, and some can even help to remove impurities from the air, allowing you to breathe better. They’re fairly easy to use –most of them operate in the same manner: fill them with water, add a few drops of your favourite essential oil (make sure that it is free of synthetic additives so that it doesn’t gum up your diffuser, plug in, turn on, and relax as the scent takes over the room. Some higher end diffusers even light up and change colour so that you can watch the dancing display as you unwind.

Himalayan salt lamps have become trendy in the last couple of years for their healing benefits. When the salt in the lamp heats up, the air is filtered through it and is cleansed of negative ions, creating a more positively charged atmosphere. It’s said that when these pink salt lamps are used regularly in a home, the residents have more energy and increased productivity.  Some lamps can be a bit expensive, so you can opt for something simpler like a tea light holder. The effects won’t be as prominent right away but over time you should still feel the benefits.

Growing plants in your home can also help to remove negative energies in from your house and create a calmer environment. If you are the type of person who could kill an air fern, devices such as the Smartpot® will help you by distributing water and nutrients at correct intervals so that your plant will flourish. For a little extra help, you can stick the Parrot Flower Power® into the soil to monitor your plants growth and track its progress.

If nothing else, investing in a portable biofeedback device is an excellent way to monitor your stress levels, muscle tension, anxiety, and various other bodily responses so that you can keep track of how you are feeling on a day to day basis and adjust your behaviours so as to encourage a greater sense of well-being.