Interview: Philips amBX, your own holodeck?

TECH Somebody told the other day that one of the best applications of amBX is for creating lighting effects to music...

DAVID Music is a great area. With a film or a game there's usually one fairly obvious way that you would want to express a piece of content. With music there's hundreds of ways of expressing any single piece of content; so we see real possibilities for giving your MP3 tracks different kinds of styles and vibes for different times of day and different uses. So you could have 'party' effect or 'ambient' effect or just something in the background while you're doing your washing.

TECH So you're not just looking at turning a lounge into a movie theatre, but a nightclub as well?

DAVID Yes. It could be a nightclub, or an ambient chill out zone...

TECH Are there any applications for amBX beyond creating ambience?

DAVID Basically amBX is something that can be used by creative people in any way that they feel that people need. So they can use it to reinforce their user interfaces, for example; perhaps to give you warnings about things that are happening on screen or away from the action. So a light flashes when someone sends you an MSN nudge, for example. It could even be used for other applications, say you want to make warning signals for security: turning lights on to make your house look lived in while you're away. What we wanted to do was put the tools in the hands of creative people who can then surprise us with the ways they use it.

TECH Philips is one of the leaders in LED home lighting as well. Do you see amBX as being a partner product for that?

DAVID Very much so. There's an ideal synergy between Philips lighting and Philips amBX; this really is the mood engine to lighting products. The progression of LED lighting shows the need for something like amBX, because there are so many possibilities opened up by having 16 million colours available in one bulb.

TECH How long do you think it will be before we start seeing amBX lights for the home, rather than just for entertainment systems, in, say, Homebase or Ikea?

DAVID Well that's part of our hope and vision, but realistically within five to ten years that sort of lighting will become commonplace and people will want to do more than just turn it on and off. amBX is the way to achieve that.

TECH The first iterations of amBX are quite expensive. The full gamer package is going to retail for $399 [approximately £200]. Do you think those prices are going to come down a bit and make it more viable for the mainstream gamer?

DAVID It's always the case that when you introduce a new and innovative product it's always going to be at a relatively high price point. But the usual forces of the market will happen and the technology behind it - particularly the LED lighting - is very rapidly coming down in price.

TECH Do you have any partners lined up for third party peripherals?

DAVID We're talking with a number of partners both for PC gaming and looking forward into console and home theatre add-ons too.

TECH Looking at the success of Nintendo's Wii controller - has anyone come up with any ideas for making an amBX-enabled joypad that uses the effects as part of the gameplay, as opposed to just the ambient effect?

DAVID A number of the developers we've worked with have been very interested in the possibility that as amBX becomes more ubiquitous, that you can use it as part of the gameplay. Now that people are waving their arms around and pointing at the walls and so on, maybe you could design the effects to happen in the area you're waving at, rather than on the screen. It's certainly something I can see happening over time, once amBX becomes established.

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