Calling all homebodies

Tech out and enjoy while you’re hunkered down at home.
 
By Marc Saltzman
 

What do you get when you combine the second wave of a global pandemic with a chilly Canadian winter? The answer, of course, is “tech-cocooning.”

Yes, many of us will be staying close to home in order to remain safe and warm over the coming months – but that doesn’t mean we need to be cut off or isolated. As research has shown, new technology can be a real difference-maker for all ages, whether it’s for entertainment, keeping us in touch with those who matter, learning or fitness. From big-screen TVs and new gaming hardware to “grown-up” exercise equipment and smart home gear, indoors and out, there’s something for everyone.

Home theatre

If it’s time for an upgrade, why not future-proof your in- vestment with an 8K TV – delivering four times the resolution of a 4K picture? A word to the wise, however, make sure you have the room on your wall to truly make the best of one of today’s mega screens.

Imagine, Samsung’s 85-inch Q900T 8K Smart QLED TV ($8,999) offers an edge-to-edge “Infinity Screen,” so there’s nada that can come between you and your beloved content. Along with 8K resolution, (33 million pixels), for an incredibly lifelike image, this television houses a Quantum Processor 8K chip and 8K AI Upscaling that can deliver non-8K content, (such as 1080p HD TV show or 4K movie on Netflix), to near 8K quality.

Speaking of the picture, the Quantum HDR 32X gives exceptional high dynamic range (HDR) for better contrast, brightness and colour, while Direct Full Array 32X automatically adjusts depth and detail, scene by scene, for a full range of dark and light details. The 32X also boasts Object Tracking Sound+ (OTS+), an integrated 6-speaker sound system that tracks the motion in every scene, so you get 3D sound for a realistic cinematic experience.

Since you can get a larger and super sharp picture, projectors are also a sought-after alternative to a television. For example, the Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS500 White Laser Projection TV ($7,799) – which includes a high-res ambient light rejecting 120-inch screen with purchase – is a “short throw” projector that only needs to be a few inches away from the wall.

The LS500 creates a stunningly clear picture, supporting 4K PRO-UHD2 HDR and 10-Bit HDR colour processing, and in the brightness and contrast department, it offers 4,000 lumens and up to 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, respectively. Available in black or white, this Epson projector delivers a super-wide 178-degree viewing angle. There’s not a bad seat in the room.

Game on

In case your kids haven’t told you, two new video game machines debuted in November, ushering in a new generation of “console wars.”

The Xbox Series X ($599), is billed as the fastest and most powerful Xbox ever. This all-black box has some serious umph under the hood that serves up stunningly sharp and smooth gameplay. On TVs that support it, the X can handle up to 8K resolution with high dynamic range, and smooth motion up to 120 frames per second. For the gaming geeks who like these kinds of “speeds and feeds,” Xbox Series X packs 12 teraflops of processing power, advanced AMD graphics, and 3D spatial sound.

It also plays today’s triple-A blockbusters, like NBA 2K1, Marvel’s Avengers and Assassins Creed Valhalla, as well upcoming exclusives like Halo Infinite in 2021. It’s also backward compatible to accommodate older games, too.

Smaller but not-as-mighty, the Xbox Series S, (for $379) is Microsoft’s second play.

If you’re more of a PlayStation gamer, the futuristic- looking black and white PS5, ($629) also delivers great power, between its octo-core AMD processor, 16 gigabytes of RAM (system memory) and a custom graphics processor that puts out more than 10 teraflops. Like Xbox Series X, PS5 supports up to 8K resolution on compatible TVs, with HDR, or up to 4K resolution at 120 frames per second.

Along with playing today’s biggest hits, PS5 has some exclusives including Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure and a remake of Demon’s Souls. PS5 is backward compatible, with support for more than 99 per cent of all PS4 titles, as well.

If you don’t need a Blu-ray disc drive, there’s also a “digital” edition of the PS5 for $499.

And, finally, while Nintendo doesn’t have any new hardware, the video game giants don’t want to be left out of the fun. Their Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, ($129), lets you race a real-world Mario Kart through your home. Use the Nintendo Switch system to control your kart and watch it react to what’s happening in the game, as you boost and drift to victory. Simply create gates with objects from around your house to customize courses in the real world, then see them come to life with different in-game environments, like jungles and snowscapes, and obstacles like Piranha Plants.

A Nintendo Switch console ($399) is required to play.

Fitness fanatic?

The just launched Peloton Bike+ ($3,295) offers bonus enhancements over its predecessor. Go for its 24-inch HD touchscreen, with integrated soundbar that can now swivel around if you want to continue your workout on a mat for stretching, yoga or strength training. Also new is an “Auto Follow” feature on Bike+ that can automatically adjust your tension, (or resistance), to the instructor’s callout.

Designed primarily for spinning and cycling, Peloton Bike+ focuses on live classes led by motivational instructors, or if you prefer, pre-recorded video classes where you can choose the length, (from 5 to 90 minutes), difficulty level, style of music (recommended: Prince Run with Andy Speer), exercise theme, and instructor. There are even scenic rides through stunning locals. Especially nice during travel lock-down.

The original Peloton Bike is now just $2,495, but remember, there’s also an ongoing monthly cost to access the classes on either bike.

If a wearable fitness tracker is more your pace, smartwatches like Fitbit Sense, ($429) and Apple Watch Series 6 (from $529). Fitbit Sense can track your movement and calculate how long you’ve been active, as well as elevation, such as steps taken, automatic workout detection, (so it knows what you’re doing), capture your pace and distance travelled, and even estimate calories burned. In fact, Fitbit Sense also measures electrodermal activity tied to your stress management, skin temperature, and integrated electrocardiogram to help assess your heart heath. The smartwatch also has voice support for Amazon

Alexa and Google Assistant, and can show you notifications tied to calls, texts, emails, and more, from a nearby phone. The Apple Watch Series 6 offers several fitness, health and wellness features, including an embedded ECG (electrocardiogram) that can detect unusually high or low heart rates, or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias); a Blood O2 monitor (pulse oximeter), which can assess the amount of oxygen carried in the body by sending light into your wrist; and has integrated Fall Detection allowing it to call emergency services and select contacts if it detects a sudden drop and you don’t confirm you’re ok.

Apple Watch Series 6 also works with Apple Fitness+ ($12.99 per month or $99 a year), a new service that incorporates the activity metrics captured by Apple Watch, for users to visualize on their iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. You can access studio-style workouts delivered by inspiring world-class trainers and with motivating music from popular artists. The intelligence behind the scenes can recommend something tailored to what you’d like. When a workout is selected and started on iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, the correct workout type will also automatically start on Apple Watch.

The future is here. Now we just have to come up with a vaccine to help us can get us all back to enjoying “life” as it was.

For the past 25 years, Marc Saltzman has been a recognized expert in consumer electronics, business tech, social media, and automotive trends. You can see him on CTV, Global TV, and as a keynote speaker across North America. Follow him on Twitter @ marc_saltzman.

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