I just visited a toy store. Only this toy store did not have any children present. It was the ultimate experience in home toys, the Cedia Show in Indianapolis, home of the Colts. Indianapolis is not only the home of the Colts, but part of the Cedia show was held in the RCA Dome, which is the Colts playing field. It was strange standing on the field looking up into the stands, while surrounded by the latest in home entertainment electronics.

As it is every year, it is difficult to know where to start. Almost every company, and there where over 500 of them, had something new to show. Of course they all claim to have the better “gizmo.” Therefore I approached the show not as an expert, but as a homeowner creating a wish list. And a wish list it is. $50,000 flat screen televisions, $30,000 loudspeaker systems, $40,000 media servers, and the list goes on. But even I had to get my feet back on solid earth and my mind out of the clouds.

I did pick a few products which merit the HomeToys Hot Product Picks for 2005 award.

The Séura television mirror, Illuminaire ambient light technology and ClearPix screen material by Screen Research are included in this section of the report.

Stay tuned for more products and picks in parts 2 and 3 of this report.

The exhibit that always catches my eye is the Millionaire Gallery Signature Collection. They presented their new Home Theater Hollywood Collection of 3 dimensional movie posters. These are museum quality pieces framed and glass enclosed. Many of the collection have hand signed 8 x 10″ movie stills and replica pieces, such as the sword from Braveheart, the sword and sheath from the Gladiator, a movie prop machine gun from Scarface and many more. These are definitely conversation pieces.

Millionaire Gallery www.millionairegallery.com

One of the real “wow” products is the television mirror from Séura. The Séura television mirror discreetly brings image and sound into a variety of spaces with a LCD television incorporated into a finely crafted mirror. You can see an image when the TV is on but the television is completely hidden when the power is off. There isn’t a room in the house where a mirror TV cannot be used. The hidden televisions come in sizes from 13″ to 45.” If you want to blow your friends and family away, this will do the trick.

Séura, Inc. www.seura.com

Love piano music, but are all thumbs? Imagine your piano reproducing performances by the greatest artists the world has known. Imagine this piano playing jazz, Broadway or Latin favorites. PianoDisc systems can be added to pianos of virtually any size, style or make, turning them into modern player pianos.

Control4 Home Automation

Whether you have a grand piano or an upright, a new piano or used, PianoDisc has a system for you. There are also many options you can add that make PianoDisc even more appealing and valuable. These are 21st century player systems, not the player pianos of old.

PianoDisc www.pianodisc.com

Looking for the ultimate remote control? The Aurora™ MX-950 from Universal Remote Control® may be the one for you. This remote has virtually unlimited memory. It can serve as the control interface for a multi-room control system. It is not just an accessory but also an essential component for your home theater system. As the master remote for the entire house, it can control 255 devices. By adding the optional MRF-300, it can send commands through walls, doors and even from the outside. Ergonomics and customization makes the Aurora a must have toy.

Universal Remote Control, Inc. www.universalremote.com

For those who like “mood lighting,” Illuminaire has introduced ambient light technology for your room. The Illuminaire system can be placed just about anywhere to provide colorful ambient. Place the light sticks behind the flat panel TV, or speakers, or any recess. Then watch as you control 16.7 million colors. You can cycles through all the colors in 30 minutes, stay with one color, change preset colors every five minutes, or slowly change your preset colors, and the system can be programmed to turn off automatically. Be sure to check this out.

Varad Corporation www.illuminaire.com

Do-it-yourselfers and systems integrators will like the Dymo portable label printer, designed to print directly on shrink tubing. It is now easy to print the name of the component directly on the shrink-wrap where it can easily be seen. No more labels that fall off over time. No more guessing what device the cable goes to. To pick the right label for your application, see Dymo.

DYMO Corporation www.dymo.com/industrial

NuTone introduced a video door answering system. You can now see and communicate with visitors before you open the door. NuTone has a recessed or a surface-mount camera, from which to choose. The camera even has a built-in LED for low light conditions. You can respond to visitors through the security station or an optional handset. Lower the 16:9 7″ wide color panel to watch cable TV with the built-in tuner, enjoy your favorite music and even make telephone calls from its hands-free speakerphone. Know who is at the door before you open it.

NuTone will also clean your house with their central vacuum system. NuTone is the first company to introduce an attractive central vacuum system made from lightweight polymer. No more rust, dents and difficult to open vacuums. The tank’s oval shape allows for a close fit with left and right intakes, giving you more options for installation. The vacuum features an internal sound suppression system that greatly reduces motor noise. It even has a monitoring system to let you know when to change the filter. This system really impressed me.

NuTone Inc. www.nutone.com

I never thought that I would not see a new home security system until I saw the Tattletale portable alarm system. It is 100% wireless. There are no phone lines that can be cut. What’s nice is that you can take it with you. Imagine protecting a 3,000 square foot house with no wires, no phone line, no installation and no waiting. You can even protect outbuildings, or equipment up to a half-mile away. Some of the features are: Tamper-proof technology, 10-hour battery back-up should power fail, seven user codes, 115 decibel siren, PIR motion detector, instant panic alarm, 24/7 response from a central monitoring location.

Tattletale Alarms http://www.tattletalealarm.com

The next product will be of more interest to the installer, but homeowners should be aware of the technology. For years now we have heard of fiber-optics. The fiber-optics that we know has been glass based. POF (Plastic Optical Fiber) has been used in the automobile industry and installed in millions of cars. .POF is optimal for home networking because of its low cost, and ease of installation POF can support 100 Mbps, 200 Mbps and 400 Mbps (megabits per second, data transfer speed), distance, speed and band-width performance. The low-cost connectors can be mounted in less than 40 seconds. Mitsubishi’s POF can be retro-installed in baseboards and under carpet.

Mitsubishi www.fiberoptic-plastic.com

StarTech announced the release of CableZen™, a new line of A/V and multimedia cables. Not another line of cables, you say. CableZen may be the home entertainment enthusiast’s best friend by putting an end to the confusion and mess of connecting multimedia equipment. Each cable kit comes with clips and ties that prevent tangling when using multiple cables. The kit also has a labeling system so that each cable can easily be identified. Each cable has a color-stripe that runs the length of the cable. The color-coding follows industry standards and matches connector colors on most A/V equipment. No black cables here. CableZen’s silver color blends in with most home environments. The connectors are 24K gold plated and the cable is triple shielded. Check your favorite consumer retailer.

StarTech.com USA LLP www.startech.com

DIY Home Automation at SmartHomeUSA

All of your entertainment . . .anywhere in the house. DigitalDeck is the connected home entertainment system. Enjoy live and recorded television programming on any TV throughout the home. Record multiple programs simultaneously from different rooms. Access, from any TV, all digital media, whether from DigitalDecks 200 GB hard drive or a PC. Have simple remote control access to all consumer electronic devices no matter where they are located. An easy-to-operate guide turns every TV into a home entertainment control center with just one remote. Simplicity in home connection.

DigitalDeck Inc. www.digitaldeck.com

Cooling products are intended to cool individual components while ventilation products help cool the space where the components are located. Cool Components has solutions for both. Often times, when all of the home’s components are installed in one room, such as a home theater, that room will be noticeably warmer than other areas of the house. Keep your rooms cooler and your components protected from heat by increasing the airflow. Heat is the enemy of your components.

Cool Components Inc. www.cool-components.com

Another product for the DYI is the Goo System screen paint. Be creative. Paint your own screen. Screen Goo is made from the highest-grade acrylic available. Screen Goo allows a person to transform any smooth paintable surface into a high performance projection screen. Screen Goo can be applied with either rolling or spraying equipment. Screen Goo is available in five top coats, including Ultra Grey and Ultra Silver 3D. If you have a hard time finding a custom screen Screen Goo may be the solution.

Goo Systems www.goosystems.com

Maybe DYI is not for you. Da-Lite has a screen called the Acoustical Imager. This is the only screen that I know of, which has the speaker system built-in. The Acoustical Imager integrates a JBL 5.1 Surround Sound speaker system in to the fixed screen. You can upgrade to 6.1 or 7.1 audio if you so wish. Da-Lite also introduced a multi-position RS-232 control for electric screens. This multi-screen control offers infinite height adjustments and multiple aspect ratio controls. This product can be found in Da-Lite’s ISC (Integrated Screen Control) products.

Da-Lite Screen Company www.da-lite.com

Just like the movies, with ClearPix™, the loudspeakers are in the ideal location – behind the screen. The ClearPix material by Screen Research is a woven material and not perforated as many similar screens are. The pictures are moiré-free with fixed-pixel projectors. Because the screen is acoustically transparent no EQ is needed. Certified by THX and ISF, ClearPix2 ensures top-quality audio and video performance.

Screen Research www.screenresearch.com

The Screen Innovations’ Mirage™ Screen is a revolutionary new front projection screen that allows you to use front projection in high brightness environments. The screen delivers up to ten times higher contrast and two times brighter images than most standard screens. This screen is available up to 120″ diagonal and comes in 14 different screen trim accents. If ambient light is a problem, check out Screen Innovation.

Screen Innovations www.screeninnovations.com

Vutec was awarded a patent on its SilverStar screen. The SilverStar has 6-gain reflectivity with the widest viewing cone in the industry. The silver screen produces true whites and blacks with a higher than normal contrast range. Better than matte white? Better than gray? You bet it is.

Vutec Corporation www.vutec.com

Now the world’s most popular movie screen is available for home theaters. Harkness Hall has installed screens worldwide in leading multiplexes, prestige theaters and large format venues. Now Harkness screens can be installed in your home theater. They are designed to give optimum brightness, color rendition and acoustic performance. For the ultimate home theater, Harkness has the FlexFrame system with masking for 7 formats and sizes up to 33 feet.

Harkness hall also has an inflatable screen solution for inside or outside usage. This screen is ideal for movies by the pool, family reunions, kids parties in the basement or back yard, and many other applications. The screen comes with an electric blower for quick inflation. The Airscreen “lite” comes in sizes from 8 – 24 feet in width. Now if we only had an inflatable projector.

Harkness Hall www.harknesshall.com

Speaking of projectors, Vidikron announced its Vision™ Model 80 with the highest available resolution in the home theater industry of 1920 x 1080, utilizing 3 D-ILA chips. The three-chip technology eliminates the flicker and rainbow effect that plagues some single chip projectors. The Model 80 has a 2100:1 contrast ratio and puts out 1050 Lumens.

Vidikron www.vidikron.com

Runco is still the standard of the home theater projection business. Runco introduced for the first time, a true wide-screen projector. The VX-2c DLP projector is equipped with CineWide™ and AutoScope™. This Runco exclusive projector projects 2.35:1 films with no black bars and all original quality. CineWide eliminates the black stripes on the top and bottom of the screen while preserving every line of resolution. The motorized AutoScope lens assembly allows viewers to switch to the new extra-wide viewing mode with a single remote control button. Cedia presented the Excellence Award for Best New Product to Runco.

Runco International www.runco.com

At the low end, Hitachi has come out with the Ultra Vision™ HDPJ52. This 16:9 LCD front projector utilizes Hitachi’s exclusive Hi-2 Dual Iris System for superior picture quality and a contrast ratio up to 5000:1. The 10-step remote motorized lens iris can be opened for maximum output when more brightness is needed for high-ambient light conditions. The HDPJ52 includes Hitachi’s nine-step gamma curve adjustment to obtain proper black levels. The Quattro ELD lens technology enables the HDPJ52 to be placed off-axis from the center of the screen without requiring digital correction.

Hitachi Home Electronics www.hitachi.com

Many projectors are now using the DarkChip3™ technology from Texas Instruments. This includes Optoma, which introduced the H78DC3 16:9 HDTV projector. This projector delivered beautiful images. The DarkChip3 has the mirrors closer together than the previous TI chips. This results in deeper blacks and a higher brightness. The H78DC3 has a 4000:1 contrast ratio, which delivers great color details.

Optoma Technology Inc. www.optoma.com

While most home theater projectors are using DLP technology, Epson® is improving their projectors with their 3LCD technology. Why 3LCD? LCD produces natural color and bright vibrant images. Since the LCD panels do not move, there is no “rainbow” effect. Using three separate LCD panels allows rapid-motion video to appear smooth and free of artifacts. The Epson projectors also have an offset lens, which allows the image to be moved 100% horizontally and 50% vertically without moving the projector. This feature is great where projection positioning is difficult. The Epson Powerlite® Home 20 is their entry-level model with 480p resolution. The Cinema 550 has 720p, while the Moviemate™ 25 has a built-in DVD/CD progressive scan player, and JVC 10-watt stereo speakers and a 40 W subwoofer.

Epson America www.epson.com

Now that you have a projector what do you do with it? Certainly not put it on the coffee table. The first time you trip on the cables, you will understand that this is not a good idea. Peerless has a solution. Mount the projector from the ceiling with their PRS and Vector Pro II ceiling mounts. To make installation easier, Peerless introduced its redesigned, fully pre-assembled Spider Universal Adapter Plate. The new Spider adapter plate comes ready to use right out of the box. Just hold the universal plates up to the projector, adjust the vertical setting on the legs, and slide it into the projector mount. No additional screws or tools necessary.

Peerless Industries Inc. www.peerlessindustries.com

Because of the number of products covered in this article, it is divided into three parts. This is part #1. Click here for Part #2 “Flat panel displays, control systems and Media Players.” Click here for part #3 ” Loudspeakers, iPod systems, Power conditioners and more.”

Note: All trademarks are the property of their respective companies.