'Like Disneyland for geeks', was how one visitor described the CEDIA 2009 Show, and this year's expo, now called the Home Technology Event, was an equally enthralling eye-candy-packed look in to the home of the future. A home which this year, predictably, came with a healthy dose of 3D technology.
The annual show at ExCeL London put together by the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) is the custom installation industry's annual shindig and a chance for companies across the industry to get together and show their wares.
There were iPad controls for multiroom music systems, speakers disguised as modern art, TVs that doubled as mirrors (an ever-present at such shows), Philippe Stark-designed iPod docks, Blu-ray media servers and, naturally, a 103in 3D TV.
Panasonic was the company in question, demonstrating a prototype model of the TH-103VX200, a 103in 3D plasma. A whopping TV has long been a trade show favourite and Panasonic's behemoth, now in 3D, certainly did the job. It's supposedly due on sale in Q1 of 2011 for around £70k – I'd start putting a little away every month right about now – and will be distributed exclusively by AWE Europe who can also help install the thing should you be in the market for a 103in TV.
Elsewhere in 3D there was a passive set from JVC, an active set from Samsung's new range and a 3D projector demonstration courtesy of Digital Projection. The company's Titan projector (below, centre) can be had for a similarly eye-watering price (£80k), and you'll need a hefty space to accommodate it but nevertheless Digital Projection was only too happy to tell us they'd sold more of the £80k models than of its £13k sibling...
It wasn't just 3D kit that had out-of-this-world prices. The Philippe Stark-designed Zikmu speakers from Parrot (opens in new tab) had a similarly hard-to-get-your-head-round price tag. WiFi and Bluetooth enabled, this set of tall speakers complete with integrated subwoofers, iPod dock and a choice of four finishes, will set you back £999.
Multiroom media systems are big business here and alongside the Sonos (opens in new tab) multiroom systems with which we are so familiar were offerings from less well known companies such as NuVo and Mozaex. The former offers an array of options for the custom install market sporting recessed on-wall controls complete with LCD displays, servers that are expandable to up to 16 zones of music and wall-mounted iPod docks that sync any iPod's library automatically to the system.
The buzz here was iPhone and iPad control, with an iPad app due for NuVo's systems due in July, and also music streaming services, with NuVo confident of integrating Spotify in to their multiroom systems in the very near future.
The Mozaex Entertainment Server had HD movies as its focus, showing a variety of player/server systems and all-in-one machines based around storing and streaming your Blu-ray collection. Packing anything up to 20TBs of hard disk - you'll need it with Blu-ray discs weighing in at 50GB – the systems play HD audio in up to eight channels, upscale DVDs to 1080p and connect to online movie streaming sites such as Netflix (where applicable).
Established brands were there in number, too, with Naim launching its iPhone app for its Uniti system, Logitech showing its new look Harmony universal remote line-up and Denon demoing many of its newest Blu-ray players, AV amps and more, news of which we've brought you on the site in recent weeks.
So it was the weird and wonderful that instead grabbed our attention, with Artcoustic, Future Automation and Stealth Acoustics perhaps the three companies attracting the most interest.
Artcoustic and Stealth Acoustics take two different approaches to the age old attempt to hide ungainly home cinema speakers, the former delivering all-in-one music systems, with line inputs, amplifier and speakers, disguised between an endless choice of artistic designs. While with the latter, there's nothing to see at all. The company's own 'high-end' speakers sit within proprietary cabinets within your walls, leaving no sign of any speakers... except the sound of course. Sound crazy? Well, yes it does rather, but it's hard to argue with the invisible effect – or the sales figures the company's clocked-up in its native US...
Last but not least, have you ever thought the decking in your back garden is missing something? Future Automation clearly thought the same, which is why the company made a fully automated 65in TV that appears from beneath aforementioned decking before vanishing out of sight again at the touch of a button. Of course it's the moving mechanisms, tilts and mounts that Future Automation specializes in and the company is only too keen to show the endless possibilities.
And endless possibilities for the tech home of the future was once again what this year's CEDIA Home Technology Event was really all about – which for consumers and enthusiasts, has to be a good thing.