Back when I was installing smart home systems in Toronto only the very wealthy could afford them.
The large custom homes in which these systems were installed often included impressive dedicated home theatres. These rooms were created to duplicate the theatre experience with big screens, surround sound, row seating and integrated controls that closed the blinds, lowered the screen, switched on the source and dimmed the lights with a single button push. While most of us get our home theatre experience with a flatscreen TV and surround sound in a room which has other functions (e.g. family room), these dedicated home theatres were the ultimate in luxury for the wealthy home owner.
I recently came across an article in CE Pro, a trade magazine aimed at custom electronics professionals, which suggests a new and exciting use for these rooms. A company based in New York state, Rayva Home Theatres has specialized in dedicated home theatres and it distinguishes itself in the market by offering innovative pre-packaged solutions. Now they are embracing the Wellness trend and adapting these dedicated theatre rooms to become immersive wellness retreats. Rather than simulating the theatre experience they now simulate being outdoors in nature.
With a few tweaks the dedicated theatre room can become a room where the sense of being in nature is so immersive that it generates verified health benefits.
It’s about a new wellness trend called “Biophilia”, a term which means love of nature.
Julie Jacobson, a long-time editor of CE Pro, began to look into it and found a body of scientific evidence that time spent in nature improves health and well-being. Most of us don’t have to be told that, but it doesn’t mean we always have the opportunity for that healing natural effect. Even those of us in the Georgian Bay area, surrounded as we are by the beauties of nature, don’t always have time to take advantage of it. Julie found that the science goes further, demonstrating that with specific stimuli the brain can be tricked into thinking it is outdoors and the health benefits are the same as if it was the real thing. She became so excited about her discoveries that she contacted Rayva to suggest they look into adapting home theatres to provide this simulation. Rayva president George Walter didn’t take much convincing.
“Since college I had come to realize that if I stayed indoors for prolonged periods of time, studying or working, I started getting depressed,” he says in the CE Pro article, “Studying for exams would be counterproductive because I just wasn’t processing. But I learned taking a break and getting outside, especially away from people and machines, reset my brain and attitude and I would be ready for anything.”
He had also noticed that many of his clients’ dedicated home theatres have been underutilized.
“I started thinking about the wealthy clients I had worked with over the years who had very stressful careers. They typically logged as few as 10 hours on their projector after the first year. These clients were not concerned about the money – they had plenty of that – they just didn’t have the time to use these beautiful theaters they had purchased. I now think of those same clients who will start their days with 15 minutes in the wellness room, stretching, yoga, or just becoming aware of what was occupying their minds. Fifteen minutes in the morning, could change the way their entire day goes.”
He realizes that the wellness room is more than something his clients want – now it’s perceived as being something they really need for their general well-being.
His wellness retreats take advantage of high-definition projectors and surround sound (a 9.4 speaker system with sound all around and above you) to create a fully immersive experience and the content is already existing: “Beautiful scenes of mountains, beaches, forests, streams and other natural habitats, all with very good immersive sound.”
Smart LED colour lights can be programmed to mimic circadian rhythms, matching the subtle colour changes that sunlight goes through during the day – changes we may not consciously notice but our bodies do.
The space becomes malleable. Instead of being filled with fixed theatre seats, a space is left for things like yoga mats, exercise bikes or other objects that can be brought in or removed as needed.
Best of all, while the transformed theatre becomes part of the daily health routine, it can still be used as originally intended, to show movies in all their visual and aural splendour.
The annual CEDIA expo, a showcase of consumer electronics, is about to happen in Denver, Colorado and Rayva will have their immersive wellness room set up for attendees to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the expo.
CE Pro has been the leading trade magazine for the consumer electronics industry for as long as I can remember , always at the leading edge of new innovations. In this case, thanks to Julie Jacobson, it has gone well beyond that mandate to provide research that is bound to open up new world for both consumers and installers. (see this story on-line at cepro.com).