The annual festival of crystal ball gazing that is Philips' Simplicity concepts event came to the Earls Court exhibition centre in London this week. The show for journalists illustrates ideas that are being considered by Philips - some practical, some outlandish, and all presented with a mix of theatre and showbiz, with actors demonstrating the 'products', none of which yet exist - at least not quite.
As with last year, much of Philips' focus was on light and how the simulation of daylight in particular can be used to make us all feel much better. Or something. There wasn't much that was new for the AV enthusiast, but there were some interesting concepts on display.
'Ambient healing space'
Philips' concept of the hospital of the future includes a body sensing blanket which can monitor the patient's vital signs and transmit the information wirelessly wherever it's needed.
Interactive room divider
The interactive room divider is a touch sensitive panel can be used to call up the patient's information which doctors can then use to describe their condition and treatment. It's also connected to the web, and can display pictures sent by well-wishers.
The daylight window has no need for curtains - you simply brush your hand across it, and a choice of shadow patterns appears - leaves, buildings, shapes, or whatever you choose. Brush your hand more to the left and the level of shadow increases, brush your hand more to the right and the shadows decrease, letting in more light. Move your hand up and down and you can add colour tones to the mix.
Designed primarily for hotels, the window can also be programmed to allow in light at preset times, so you can wake up to natural light with a gradual dawn, anytime you wish.
Alcove light therapy
By sitting in a corner of the window, the hotel guest starts a timed sequence of light therapy, moving from white light designed to help counter jetlag to blue light intended to re-energise and raise energy levels. The light therapy concept comes from research at Chicago's Northwestern University which discovered a third light receptor in the retina which is directly connected to the body clock and is suspected of influencing mood and performance.
Foetal scanning belt
Philips' vision of the future maternity clinic includes dispensing with the need for cold gels and grainy in utero pictures with the ultrasound scanning belt, which makes an accurate map of the baby and projects it onto a domed wall to offer a full-colour, 3D presentation on a tummy-shaped wall. Philips claims the concept is actually 4D, since the picture of the baby can also be moved back and forward in time.
The Bebescope is a portable wireless device that contains all the scan information, including photos of the baby, which can be uploaded so they can be viewed at home by the prospective parents. They can watch their baby growing in the womb or rotate the picture on the touch-sensitive domed screen to get a 3D picture of their baby whenever they like.
Real world stuff
After the sci-fi stuff, Philips showed off their real-world wares, including a collaboration with hotel group Citizen M on low-cost (69 euros a night) self-contained hotel rooms with all mod cons which can be slotted together to build instant hotels almost anywhere. The first will be in Amsterdam this year, and in Glasgoe in 2009.
More interestingly, we got a chance to check out the new Aurea Ambilight LCD TV, which looked sumptuous. At least it did when it wasn't showing the promo film by stylistic director Wong Kar-Wai, commissioned by Philips specifically to show off its Ambilight charms.
It features lots of image noise throughout (tellingly absent in the other promo films being shown) and makes little use of the Ambilight's pinpoint light sensitivity, simply washing colour around the screen without any subtlety - he even managed to insert some judder in parts, just to make it look like the Aurea can't get the basics right. Who else should they have asked to contribute a promo film? Answers below please.