The Coolest of CEDIA 2011: Lutron's Battery-Powered Shades

To me, the most exciting and revolutionary home theater product at the CEDIA Expo wasn't a new speaker or projector or HDMI-over-CAT5 solution. Nope, it was the battery-powered version of the Sivoia QS motorized shade from Lutron.

I've always envied the rich guys who could afford to have motorized shades in their media rooms, converting the whole space from a sunny living area to a dark entertainment space at the touch of a button. But at prices starting around $1,200 per shade - plus another few zillion for the control system and installation - I never thought I'd enjoy that luxury myself (unless someday speaker measurement becomes all the rage among the kids and I get rich writing a book about it).

Imagine my shock to discover at the CEDIA Expo that Lutron's new battery-powered Sivoia QS cellular shades start at just $299 per - and you don't even need a control system for them.

Lutron simplified the new shades in three ways. First, they're cellular (accordion-style) shades. Second, they're powered by a set of six D batteries housed in the top section, so there are no power wires to run. (Lutron says that thanks to its Triathlon power-saving technology, the D cells will last about three years in typical use.)

And third, the least-expensive version can be controlled by a conventional IR remote. You can even teach the codes to a learning remote, so you can include them in a macro and get the same one-touch convenience I described above. Somewhat pricier versions work with Lutron's Pico RF remote and GrafikEye, RadioRA, and HomeWorks automation systems.

The shades are available in three versions. The one home theater fans will want is the blackout shade, which completely blocks outside light to create an ideal viewing environment. There are also single- and double-cell shades that allow some outside light to pass through. The $299 starter price covers a 3- by 5-foot shade; sizes up to 82 by 82 inches are available. You can choose from more than 100 color/pattern combinations.

I can't say with a straight face that most of the speakers and TVs we cover in S+V will make you the envy of everyone on the block - but these shades just might.