Compiling the Components for a Mobile Home Theater in a Box

I have dreamt about finding a portable home-theater-in-a-box product for several years, thinking how cool it would it be to have a large-screen entertainment center that you could take practically anywhere–camping, to the beach, a backyard party.
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Gordon van Zuiden (gordon@cybermanor.com) is president of cyberManor in Los Gatos, California. I have dreamt about finding a portable home-theater-in-a-box product for several years, thinking how cool it would it be to have a large-screen entertainment center that you could take practically anywhere–camping, to the beach, a backyard party. Today the technology exists to make this dream come true, courtesy of a 3M Mobile MP300 projector, ROKU’s new “USB stick sized” HDMI card, the rich sound of a Jambox miniature speaker, and the ubiquitous ability to access WiFi or cellular signals from almost everywhere. These battery-powered products, which fit into a 10 x 7 x 3-inch container, showcase the amazing advancement of mobile home entertainment technologies.

As custom electronic integrators, one of our key roles is to create rich entertainment experiences for our clients. We integrate high-resolution screens, coupled with high-fidelity amplifier and speaker systems, to produce captivating in-home entertainment zones. We integrate the best of satellite, cable, Blu-ray, gaming, photo, and internet content into these TV zones, connecting each of these devices to the home network for rich content and control. But these immersive entertainment solutions are anchored as fixed experiences in the home. Of course we can bring a laptop or a tablet with us when we leave the house and enjoy an entertainment experience for ourselves. But if we want to have a movie night in the park for a dozen of our friends, then we need something that we can pack with the wine and cheese and set up in a few minutes. That’s the beauty of the “home theater in a box”–it can leverage the entertainment content that our clients already own or can rent from the internet cloud and display on a surface large enough to be enjoyed by a group of friends and family.

Here’s a closer look at each of these mobile components and how we can use them.

The 3M Mobile Projector MP300

This tiny, 16-ounce projector casts 60 lumens of light in resolutions up to 720p and 1080i on an 80-to 100-inch screen. Utilizing a TI DLP chip, it can last up to 3.5 hours on a single charge. With its HDMI input port, it can play any HDMI source, but the USB form factor of the ROKU stick makes it an ideal combination for this projector.

Roku

With more than 700 broadband-connected channels, Roku can now deliver entertainment experiences from Netflix, Amazon Unbox, and VUDU movie downloads, Hulu Plus TV subscription experiences, Picasagenerated personal photo slide shows, exercise videos, and the list goes on and on. It is the audio video gateway to entertainment in the cloud–all on the size of a USB stick. And if you can’t get to the cloud from a WiFi connection, then you can pull out your smartphone and tether the Roku stick to the phone’s cellular connection.

The Jambox

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This pieced-together “home theater in a box” can leverage the entertainment content that our clients already own or can rent from the internet cloud and display on a surface large enough to be enjoyed by a group of friends and family. This tiny 7- x 2-inch speaker from Jawbone produces a powerful sound that can easily be heard in an area that holds 20-30 people. With a battery life up to 10 hours, it can out last the longest movies and weighs only 12 ounces, making it the ideal audio complement to the 3M Mobile Projector.

Not sure where you’d use such a set up? Consider these portable home theater application ideas:

Real-Time Party Slide Shows

Take pictures at a party with your iPhone, upload them to Picasa photo cloud storage with the Picasa Web Albums application, and instantly view them on the big screen. It’s a movie-like slideshow experience in real time. We used this in the apartment we rented in New York City for our daughter’s graduation, and it became the focal point of the celebration.

Drive-In Movie Experience in Your Hotel Room

Use the Wi-Fi in the hotel to tap into the Netflix movie library to play large-screen movies. Where is the largest flat screen in a hotel room? The ceiling! Lie in bed, look up, and enjoy the show! (Note: this doesn’t work well if there is a mirror on the ceiling.)

What Size TV Screen Should We Specify for Our Clients?

We’ve all been there. We do the prewire walkthrough, get asked what TV size would be best in a given room, and we hold our arms apart on the wall and say, “A 50-, 60-, or 70-inch screen would be perfect for this room.” Now, instead of waving your arms, pull out the mini 3M projector and resume a movie you’ve been playing from Netflix. Then hold it at a distance where the client can actually see what a 50-, 60-, or 70-inch or larger screen would look like.

You can do almost anything that your mind can dream up with this portable entertainment center. It opens up a new world of large audience mobile entertainment. And, at a price of under $500 (including the rugged Pelicon transport box) it may even be a gift you might consider giving to your next $50,000-plus client.

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