Six superyacht audio-visual and entertainment technology trends
Last updated: 31/03/2017
When it comes to the superyacht industry, owners often like to have the very best and latest technology, and home entertainment and AV systems are no exception. Yachting Pages looks at some of the most recent trends and innovations in yacht AV and entertainment, with help from the experts.
As James Ward, managing director at Electric String states, “Entertainment and AV is an ever-evolving business, with incremental changes continually being the “next big thing.”
4K television, more commonly known as Ultra High Definition (UHD), is the most obvious current trend in the A/V industry, and the next few years is set to see more of the same.
The 4K technology is becoming more popular with superyachts in onboard cinema rooms, according to David Milner, managing director at Veritais. He said, “4K Ultra HD TVs deliver four times as much detail as current generation 1080p Full HD; that’s eight million pixels, as opposed to two million.
“What that means in terms of potential is that image clarity is in much finer detail, and has greater texture and photographic smoothness.”
With 4K now so popular, owners will soon move on to what is perceived to be bigger and better, and in the case of 4K, it will soon be 8K, which is said to be around four years from being sold mainstream.
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) TVs are also starting to appear in the market and could offer a better alternative to LED TVs for superyachts in the future. According to Mark from Navicomm, OLED TVs are brighter, more efficient and thinner than traditional LED TVs. “I believe we will start to see more flat panel OLED TVs appear as OLED technology offers several advantages over LCD technology.”
The advantages offered for OLED TVs include a faster refresh rate, better contrast and colour reproduction, and are considered greener, as they draw less power. The TVs are thin and light, with the OLED TVs of today just 4mm thick, offering a better viewing angle - almost 180 degrees.
DOLBY Atmos is an exciting A/V technology, popular in residential cinemas. Originally a speaker surround sound configuration for commercial cinema applications, Atmos technology has rapidly found its way into the residential cinema market. Many mid-high end AV receivers now implement the Atmos format, allowing users to create a commercial cinema effect in their own home cinema.
David at Veritais notes an increase in popularity of what are called, “ultimate experiences”, particularly Dolby Atmos, which enables sound to come from all directions, providing “top end clarity, richness, detail and depth.”
There is a perception that Atmos would not be suitable for superyachts, however as James from Electric String points out, “People often think that Atmos is a hardware requirement needing lots and lots of speakers and so couldn’t be applied to superyachts. It’s not.
“Atmos is a digital encoding technique, which removes the individual channel encoding of a traditional surround system and instead creates a single mix with audio objects encoded in specific audio locations for recreation by the physically installed system.”
With the advance of tablets and new technologies such as the Apple Watch, clients are demanding more convenience when it comes to being able to control multiple systems from one device, from their television to their lighting. Lighting in particular, is still of major importance when creating an amazing AV experience for a superyacht owner.
As James explains, “Users are demanding more convenience now that they are comfortable with more traditional technologies. The entertainment arena is becoming a much more personal affair, with tablets and smart phones adjusting people’s views on how A/V can be delivered and connected.
“Wireless connection is a must rather than an option, multi-format transmission is highly important and the ability to bring everything together coherently on a device, which can both deliver and control the content distribution is highly desirable.”
One particularly interesting example of integrated systems on board is the Living Technology System from Van Berge Henegouwen, which uses the Apple Watch and Pivot Control application, and features in the Robb Report's Top 5 Superyacht Technology Trends. The system offers everything from calling a crew member and alerting crew when guests are awake, to enabling guests to control the lighting, curtains and entertainment systems from their Apple Watch.
Another groundbreaking brand is Savant, endorsed by gadget experts Tech Radar, and responsible for installing high-end systems on board Steve Jobs' superyacht, Venus.
Hidden speaker systems
Innovative hidden speaker systems are based upon the concept of reproducing sound from a vibrating surface, just like that of a natural musical instrument, rather than the usual piston like approach of the conventional speaker.
Designed as flat panelled products, they are able to be installed into walls or ceilings by replacing a cut-away section of plasterboard, before the final skim of plaster is applied. However hidden speakers can general be applied within many other materials, including wood, veneered surfaces and leather-clad panels.
Hidden speaker systems are beneficial to interior designers, as they allow more freedom and less interference with the overall design of a room. Richard Newlove from Amina Technologies, a specialist in hidden speaker technology says, “People who want stunning aesthetics and high clarity sound want to use our speakers, because conventional “dinner plate” ceiling loudspeakers can ruin the design, be it a home or in a marine environment.”
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Augmented reality and virtual reality are becoming ever more popular, and not just in terms of entertainment.
Many yacht designers are now working with VR specialists to develop an immersive experience, whereby potential owners can 'step on board' a new superyacht concept. For example, at September's Monaco Yacht Show, VR specialist Bricks & Goggles provided a virtual tour of new superyacht concept Project Raptor.
Hammerhead is another company working with Sunseeker to produce immersive superyacht product experiences for Oculus Rift.James says, “Augmented reality applications are starting to emerge as entertainment on-board, but are typically more of a niche appeal compared to more traditional content-based offerings – at the moment they are often reserved for show spaces, almost as a curiosity or something unique to give an ‘edge’ over other vessels.
“However, the landscape is changing and the interactive nature of AR systems is ensuring that they are becoming more in demand, as tastes and fashions change. As this happens, the frequency of AR applications and their installations increase.”
What does the future hold?
Technology is known for its incredible fast-moving development, and with trends often changing every few months or year, a lot can change during three years, the average time of a superyacht build.
One trend which James points out has grown hugely, is on-demand content, however this is certainly not without its challenges when it comes to superyachts. “On-demand culture is a big growth area and is continuing to become one of the most desirable aspects of a system.
“The challenges associated with internet bandwidth and data allowances at sea are well documented, and can incur large costs, but the prevalence of superfast broadband for land based customers, means that a large proportion of the market is heading towards streaming solutions.
“With this in mind, yacht-specific systems are gaining ground over some of the better-known, land-centric competitors.”
Another interesting trend taking off is transparent touch screen displays, created by luxury tech specialist, Taptl.