Philips has boosted its Ambilight LED backing light system for more immersive TVs, with the 2014 upgrade improving color-changing response speed as well as offering contextual information through lighting. The tech, which will be loaded on the 2014 Philips Ambilight TVs, includes a gaming mode that allows the colors to keep pace with faster gameplay, where before it had been tuned for a more leisurely response.
Given Philips' addiction to LED lighting on both its Ambilight TVs and its hue wireless lightbulbs, it's a surprise it took the company so long to cook up the Ambilight+hue system in the new Elevation TV. Announced back in July, the 60-inch Elevation builds on the existing Ambilight system by hooking in the rest of your living room smart lighting, matching all of the lamps to what's happening on-screen.
Philips has updated its Ambilight color-illumination system for TVs by integrating it with Hue wireless LED lightbulbs, spreading content-themed light effects around the room. The update - which comes with a new Ambilight+Hue app for iOS and Android, compatible with Ambilight TVs from 2011 onward - arrives alongside the Philips Elevation TV, a new ultra-slim 60-inch LCD TV with Ambilight "4-sided XL" for all-round colors.
The Philips Research team responsible for the Ambilight color-changing LED system used on several Philips HDTVs, and which recently was established as the amBX division, has separated and will be run as a single business. While Philips will still licence the technology - which synchronizes colors to emphasize the on-screen image - amBX will also market it to other companies in the hope that it becomes an industry standard. As well as color, amBX devices can also use sound, rumble, airflow and, soon, smell to augment the on-screen entertainment or gaming experience.
For my tenth birthday I think I probably got a Transformer. Philips is obviously a tad more generous, and is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Ambilight technology with three new 1080p sets that each use LEDs for their backlighting.
Philips Ambilight is one of those "clever, but does it really work?" concepts that, surprisingly enough, has received generally great reviews. Put simply, it matches the predominant tones on-screen as an LED colourwash on the wall behind the TV, giving the appearance of a bigger, more harmonious picture.
Still, it's an expensive addition to an already pricey piece of home entertainment equipment, and of course only available on Philips' own sets. Far more useful, you might think, is an aftermarket system that could be used on any screen.
Ambient Reality Effects (A.R.E.), a Netherlands based company, believe they have just that system - up to four strips of coloured LEDs that, when hooked up to a Media Centre PC, flood the background wall with ambient light. Screen analysis software runs quietly in the background, monitoring what's being shown and mixing together the perfect blend of lighting to emphasise it.
The starter package - which includes the software, one LED strip, cables and power supply - costs 165 Euros ($211), with the SDK as a free download for people interested in integrating the technology in their programs.
You could hardly walk five paces through the halls at CES 2015 without stumbling over a wireless light bulb. Connected lighting seems determined to be the point of entry to domestic home automation, and there are plenty - startups and larger - hoping to corner the market. Ironically, then, the company which arguably created the market, Philips, had decamped to a nearby hotel, outfitting a suite with a full array of hue bulbs and lamps. I stopped by to get a demo of the newest 12 Monkeys hue light-soundtrack support, as well as to find out what's coming up next as the smart home accelerates.
You might think that sharks getting caught up in tornados wouldn't need any more drama in your living room, but Sharknado 2: The Second One will actually be the first TV event to get its own Philips hue-based "light soundtrack". Added as part of the Syfy Sync app, the so-called light track will automatically recognize different scenes in the movie and adjust the lighting colors of the hue bulbs in your living room to suit. However, you don't have to wait for Sharknado 2 to try it out.
Microsoft's Illumiroom immersive lighting system didn't arrive alongside the Xbox One, but that hasn't stopped impressive DIY efforts integrating the console with Philips' remote control hue bulbs. The handiwork of one enterprising gamer, the system may not have the same gameplay-extending scope as Microsoft's concept - which uses a projector to actually expand what's on-screen to the surrounding environment - but it does promise to make gaming more engaging by dynamically adjusting the ambience of the room according to the game.
Philips has been making multi-colored lighting for some time, but even so the hue system came as a surprise last year. ZigBee-enabled wireless LED bulbs, remotely controlled by an open mobile app, and promising the sort of smart home functionality that would once have demanded many thousands for installation, hue quickly sold out in stores and built a loyal following of users and developers tapping into the API. Now, for 2013, there's the "Friends of hue" range, a new line of companion products that hook into hue ecosystem. LivingColors Bloom is a compact, portable lamp, while the LightStrip is a long, adhesive-backed strip of LEDs; read on for our full review.