Few of us need an in-depth scientific study to convince ourselves of the wonderfully rejuvenating and highly beneficial effects of sunshine and fresh air on both our short- and long-term health. (If you’ve been working so much lately that you can’t quite remember what it’s like to feel the sun on your face or the wind in your hair, maybe it’s time you took a day or two off.) Yet our lives are so intertwined with technology – for productivity, communication, and entertainment – that we’re not always inclined or able to “take the cure” of the great outdoors, even if it’s as simple as spending a cool, quiet morning sitting on your deck, enjoying a refreshing sunny afternoon swim in the pool, or enjoying a relaxing evening watching a movie with friends and colleagues on your patio.
Fortunately, home entertainment and good old Mother Nature aren’t mutually exclusive anymore. In fact, new products and technologies have made them quite compatible, if not downright complimentary, with one another. Outdoor TVs from companies such as SunBriteTV and Seura are a great example. SunBriteTV, for instance, has refined weather-resistant technology they originally developed for use in flat-panel displays installed in numerous sports venues around the country and created a new line of affordable consumer-oriented outdoor HDTVs that can survive rain, sunshine, snow, and even hail. Most important of all, however, is the fact that the image quality of SunBriteTV’s sets is outstanding – even in broad daylight! SunBriteTV’s Signature Series includes outdoor TVs with screen sizes that range from 32” to 65” in diagonal; and, since they can be mounted on shelves or stands, on walls, or even on special pedestal mounts, you can install one of these outdoor HDTVs just about anywhere that you can think of (as long as there’s electricity available, of course).
Nearly every outdoor HDTV includes built-in speakers, but I haven’t come across a television set yet – whether it’s designed for outdoor or indoor use – that wouldn’t benefit from a set of dedicated loudspeakers to improve the sound quality of whatever it is you’re watching. Many well-known speaker companies (such as Klipsch, Sonance, Boston Acoustics, and Definitive Technology, to name a few) now offer weather-resistant models that can be used with an outdoor TV or, more commonly, as an extension of your home’s main audio/video system. (Or both!) Some speakers, such as those from Rockustics, are cleverly designed to look like real rocks or even fully functioning planters. And, if you want to make your movie or music entertainment an even more moving experience, you can add an outdoor subwoofer, a few of which are large enough that they’re designed to be buried mostly underground.
Traditionally, outdoor speakers are installed with speaker wire running (through walls, under eaves, even underground) directly to an amplifier inside the house. Wireless technology, however, is finally reaching the point where both the reliability and the quality of the sound makes “mostly-wireless” – and even one or two totally wireless – speakers viable alternatives to the direct-wired type. Perhaps the most impressive wireless speakers available today are from SoundCast, a company that specializes in wireless audio products. SoundCast’s weather-resistant OutCast and OutCast Jr. models are truly wireless speakers that can be used up to 300 feet away from their transmitters; and, thanks to built-in rechargeable batteries and carrying handles, both the OutCast and OutCast Jr. are totally portable, so when the fun moves from the pool to the patio you can take the music with you.
There’s also been an explosion of products designed specifically for on-the-go entertainment. Monster’s iSport Immersion in-ear headphones, for example, are UV-protected and sweat-proof with a special SportClip that clings tightly to your ear but doesn’t get in the way of eyewear or helmets – and they’re washable! (Oh, and they just happen to sound fantastic, too.) There are also an unbelievable number of waterproof cases, armband mounts, car seat mounts, and even bicycle mounts for the ubiquitous smartphones we can’t seem to part with even for a minute. If you want to make video memories of your outdoor fun, Sony, Olympus, and others make waterproof cameras that can take still images and video above or below the surface of the water. And while we’re on the subject of making video memories, if you’re an extreme-sports person, companies such as GoPro make cameras that mount just about anywhere (including strapped to your chest or helmet) and capture high-definition video – and even stream it live via Wi-Fi – of your most spectacular sporting successes. (In the case of an epic failure, don’t worry, you can always erase the video after they’ve finished putting the cast on…)