A web-connected 3D display could replace your TV. And decant fish into your front room
The London Olympics will be remembered for many things, but the Big British Sports Day had a few world class British winners: Jess Ennis, Mo Farah and the BBC amongst them.
Auntie Beeb went big on the Olympics, utilising multiple TV channels and streaming online every minute of every sport. And people responded: according to the BBC's own stats, over a 24-hour period on the busiest days Olympic traffic to bbc.co.uk exceeded that for the corporation's entire coverage of the 2010 World Cup. On some days the BBC delivered 2.8 petabytes of data, and while Bradley Wiggins was winning his gold medal data was streamed at 700 Gb/s.
A huge chunk of this was live video streaming - more than 800,000 people watched online Andy Murray win gold in the tennis, and that was live on free-to-air BBC TV, during the weekend when people could watch it on telly.
Online media streaming has arrived. During the Beijing games four years ago you knew if a few people in the PC Advisor office watched the online coverage because our connection ground to a halt. During our own Games, literally every workstation was streaming the action. It's not that PCA staffers are any more lazy than they were (that's not possible), but the technology has improved as online streaming has grown more popular. At home lots of people watched one sport on their TV, and another on tablet, laptop or smartphone.
Tech industry insiders have often talked about the putative 'second screen', the device that will supplement your TV as a display offering a window into connected information and entertainment. In such a scenario the living room sofa points toward the TV, and the second screen PC lurks in the background. But the popularity of laptops, tablets and smartphones means that we all have multiple screens, and the TV is not necessarily the most important.
Due to a wisteria-related injury my satellite dish stopped working earlier this year. For two weeks I had no TV signal, and the weird thing was how little it mattered. I had plenty enough entertainment via services such as Netflix and LOVEFiLM accessed via a games console, as well as iPlayer, 4oD and the rest, as well as Sky Go app on laptop and smartphone. And that's without considering paid-for media downloads to iPad or Android tablet.
In the post-terrestrial era you don't need an aerial or satellite dish to access TV. You don't even need a TV tuner. And in the post-PC world we have an increasing number of screens dotted around the house via which to watch televisual entertainment. It's something that worries the makers of expensive smart TVs – very few people use apps on their TVs, and you can access 3D content on much cheaper laptops and PCs. See How to get 3D for free and How to upgrade your PC for real 3D.
A big display will always be the best way to watch films, sport and high-class drama, but that display could be one of the all-in-one PCs we recently reviewed: All-in-one PCs buying advice, group test. They have the benefit of being full-spec PCs, capable of all the productivity and media tasks you'd expect. Meanwhile the tablets and smartphones in our Top 5 Charts are, as well as many other things, portable screens for viewing TV and movies. Even an inexpensive laptop makes for a perfect workstation and media centre if you are on a budget. I'm talking to you, students.
You'll need a good broadband connection, of course, so check out our guide to getting faster Wi-Fi in your home (Boost your router's wireless coverage and fix deadspots), and our tests of homeplug adaptors (see also: HomePlug powerline networking adaptors buying advice) and AC routers.