The Clarient Group

InfoComm 2017 Recap: the Exciting Future of AV Design is Driven by Immersive Experiences

by Nicholas Valauri, CTS-D, Audiovisual Systems Designer, The Clarient Group

InfoComm

Source - InfoComm International

My friends and colleagues did not disappoint on their quest to provide the state of the art technology at InfoComm 2017. One of my favorite aspects of the industry is that there are several different technical ways to solve a problem and then the possibilities for the final design are endless depending on the products selected. Each manufacturer offers a unique approach whether it is form factor, electronics, software, horsepower, interface or any other separating factors. I found the four technologies particularly interesting and potentially useful in my upcoming projects: (1) Video over IP, (2) voice-activated controls, (3) immersive experiences, and (4) surface mapping projection.

VIDEO OVER IP

Video over IP has been picking up speed over the past year. Led by the Software Defined Video over Ethernet Alliance (SDVoE) several manufacturers have come out with products that can transport video at 4K, 60 Hz, 4:4:4 over 1 Gb Ethernet. Prior to the development of this technology category 6 cabling could not support the data rate required for such high resolutions. As the industry marches toward full adoption of 4K, high dynamic range (HDR), and eventually 8K there will be need for transport technologies developed to aid in supporting these high data rates. Not only does the Video over IP technology allow transportation of high-resolution content over a CAT6 cable, but it also brings video to the IT network topology like never before. Just as you can connect your devices to a network in a variety of locations throughout your home or office – you can now connect a video source and/or a video display in the same manner. Although I believe they will always have their place, the days of fixed and modular frame switchers appear to be numbered. The scalability and versatility of a network switch to transport these signals and converge your IT and AV systems together is a big step forward. I stumbled upon one manufacturer that stood out to me on the show floor this year. Visionary Solutions has a series of Duet encoders and decoders that have Dante break in and break out of the Video over IP network (read more here). Adding a second network port for Dante – 2 CAT6 cables to this device allows you to transport 4K video and audio from a source to anywhere in your network. I expect more manufacturers will be adding this capability to their hardware in the coming months.

VOICE-ACTIVATED CONTROLS

Nowadays, the use of voice as a means of control is becoming more and more common in everyday life. Smartphones have a variety of interactive voice control mechanisms, our cars can place phone calls, change music selection, and adjust the climate, and voice-activated speakers in our homes can adjust lighting, climate, and even order products. As with many trends in the AV industry, if consumers can do it in their own homes they generally ask for it in their workplaces. Several manufacturers have started exploring voice-activated control technology. Many of them are working with existing voice control products to facilitate integration (like this Crestron-Alexa example). One concept behind bringing this capability to the Pro AV industry is to be able to walk into a room and tell the room what you would like to do. Even though it sounds simple, there are several factors involved that can and will complicate the implementation of such a control mechanism. These factors include knowledge of available commands, clarity of speech, and room integration. When you look at a touch panel or a button panel, you read the buttons, pick which function you would like the room to perform, select the button, and off you go. With voice control, how will the user know that he or she can make an audio conference call just by walking in the room? Will they be able to tell that the camera mounted below the display is for unified communications (UC), web-based conferencing instead of a hard coded solution? What if both options are available? How will they know which to use? Many of these questions can be answered with a visual interface. For frequent users, the commands will become routine and easy to use. However, rooms today are designed so that anyone can come in and operate the room with no prior experience. I believe this technology will find its way into the Pro AV industry but as a compliment to a visual control interface, rather than a replacement.

IMMERSIVE TECHNOLOGIES

In addition to voice control, many booths were showing immersive technologies. These included hemispherical projection systems, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Hemispherical displays are similar to the planetariums we all visited in grade school and provide an immersive experience for users. The latest enhanced lens technology has the ability to focus both in the center and the outermost parts of the lens. This enhancement paired with the clarity provided by 4K resolutions can deliver an incredible, immersive experience. End users can literally look around and feel as if they were in a different environment because they are surrounded by content. Augmented reality has emerged as software companies are using it to enhance user experience via mobile devices. This technology can be a very useful tool for modeling as it allows users to have experiences that don’t even exist in reality yet. This can be especially useful in construction and design to simulate the final result of an upcoming project. Creating a model in virtual reality allows the team to experience what it would be like to approach a lobby and walk through a space. This can help provide valuable feedback to the design team that wouldn’t have been available without this simulation technology. Immersive technologies will continue to make their way through the industry and will find an abundance of applications going forward.

SURFACE MAPPING PROJECTION

Finally, several manufacturers were showing off their surface mapping projection systems. These systems consist of a series of projectors that are all pointed at a surface or an object. Several light sources coming from different angles eliminate the shadows giving the impression that the subject is moving from all vantage points. Most users experience this at sporting arenas when visual effects are created on the playing field surfaces. Christie Digital had this technology on display above their booth with a 3D tiger head. With the help of imaging projected on the head from 4 sources and the constant change of content, the illusion of the tiger opening its mouth was created. The booth also featured a variety of colors and patterns in their content loop to show off the technology. Such visually stunning systems can serve as a focal design point for clients who wish to make an impact in their space.

IN CONCLUSION

These new technologies are exciting and we look forward to putting them to use as much as our clients do. We suggest you consult with AV professionals as they will assess your goals and help apply whichever technology is best suited to ensure you reach those goals. Whether you are looking to refresh your existing spaces, outfit a new space, or add some audiovisual flair to your next project, The Clarient Group can help in Advancing your Vision®. We have a full team of subject matter experts to support all aspects of your design far beyond your audiovisual system needs.

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For further information, please contact
Michael McCann, FSMPS, CPSM
Business Development and Marketing Manager
The Clarient Group, LLC
630 Ninth Avenue, Suite 1012
New York, NY 10036
mmccann@theclarientgroup.com