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Home cinema has key role in vision of future

CONSUMERS yesterday caught a glimpse of the technology that promises to entertain and inform them in the next few years. The latest in home cinema, family-style computing, CD video games and mobile communications was displayed under one roof at the start of this week's Live '94 consumer electronics show in London.

With more than 200 exhibitors, this year's show is three times the size of last year's inaugural event. This year, cinema in the home is a major theme - with half a dozen systems on display. The idea is to bring cinema-quality images and sound into the living room. The single-unit systems, with speakers at the back of a room behind the audience as well as to the side and on top of the screen, are beginning to find a market in the UK.

The rise in popularity of home cinema has been described as the death of the hi-fi, with a single combined entertainment system taking its place. But hi-fi companies are fighting back. Linn, the loudspeaker company, showed its 'multi-room' system, which wires up the whole house or flat so the occupants can control the sound in each room separately from one central panel.

The system can be programmed to play a CD in the living-room, the radio in the bathroom and a cassette in the kitchen. This flexibility costs about pounds 1,000 per room; the first system went to the Prince of Wales, for Kensington Palace.

Sharp launched its Teleport video modem, which can send colour video stills down a telephone line. After shooting a home video, the operator plugs the camcorder into the Teleport, selects a frame and sends it over to a friend's Teleport.

The company also showed its 21-inch 'hang-on-the-wall' television - one of the largest liquid crystal display screens developed. The company has just begun mass production of 10-inch flat screen displays in Japan, and hopes to aim its larger versions at the rapidly expanding multi-media market - computing that combines text with graphics, video and sound.

Novell launched a new range of word processing software for children, also aimed at exploiting the rise of personal computing in the home. The company expects 1.5 million multi-media computers to be sold in the UK this year.

Other gadgetry on show included Canon's new auto-focus camcorder, which fires an infra-red beam at the retina to track the operator's eye movements. Swatch showed its new combined wrist-watch and pager to be launched next month, and Bose launched the 'Wave Radio' - a radio alarm that can be programmed to switch on to different channels at different times.

(Photograph omitted)