ROBRADY DESIGNER'S LOG: InfoComm 2013

ROBRADY DESIGNER'S LOG: InfoComm 2013

Designed for professionals in the audiovisual, information communications and systems integration industries, InfoComm 2013 showcases the latest technologies for audio, video, display, projection, lighting and staging, digital signage, conferencing, digital content creation, networking, signal distribution and a host of other specialty AV products and services. InfoComm 2013 was held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL from June 8th through June 14th.

It’s been 7 years since I last visited InfoComm and not surprisingly, the entire industry has transformed in that short time. A 60” flat panel HDTV was $10,000, the iPhone wouldn’t be out for another year and hardware & cables were everywhere. Fast forward to 2013, flat panel TVs are razor thin, lighter, have higher resolution and are well under $1,000. Hardware has been replaced by Apps for iOS and Android, and wireless connectivity is assumed for everything.

After spending the day at InfoComm and getting myself re-established in the 21st century, I was able to collect my thoughts and wanted to share my top 4 insights/inspirations for Design:

Telepresence
Telepresence refers to a set of technologies that allows a person to feel as though they were present, to give the appearance of being present, or to have an effect, via telerobotics, at a place other than their true location. We have all seen the commercials with the sick kid at home happily going to school using his mobile robot (what neighborhood does he live in?).

AtInfoComm, there were 2 companies showing their Telepresence solutions: iRobot and Beam. iRobot is the company that produces the Rumba, and the new iRobot Ava500 uses the same mechanical base. Sadly, the iRobot was having technical difficulties while I was at the show. That made the display by Beam even more impressive.

Beam had a 20 x 20 booth with a small circular table in the middle along with 10 Beam robots and charging stations. The Beam robots were allowed to roam outside the small booth footprint and venture into the aisles to meet people. They were all controlled by Beam employees in San Jose, CA and spoke English, Spanish, French and Japanese. They were amazingly “human”, easy to talk to and engaging.

Telepresence seems like a bit of a gimmick right now, but it is starting to find a home in both Medicine and at High-Tech companies. The ability to take a surgeon from across the country into an operating room with you, allow them to interact in the actual environment and even pull up technical data is a very powerful tool that will be used more and more in the future.

Ubiquitous Computing
Ubiquitous computing is the next-generation of human-computer interaction in which communication and information processing has been integrated into everyday objects and activities. That’s a more complicated way of saying, “connect with anyone, anywhere on any type of device”. Video conferencing has been around for a long time, but tends to be very expensive. Low-cost or free technologies like Skype, GoTo Meeting and FaceTime have made video chat more available, but none of these systems speak to each other.

In the near future, you will be able to connect with anyone, anywhere on any type of device - video-conference system, webcam, tablet or smart phone. It will be as easy as dialing a single phone/video number and adding them to your call/conference in real time. No access numbers, no invites - it will be as easy as making a phone call and adding them to the video conference. Systems already have video capture to record conversations allowing people that weren’t able to make the call to watch later.

Projectors
The last time I was at InfoComm, I was working at InFocus and was responsible for the Toshiba OEM account. We made products for Toshiba using the same core components as InFocus, but designed enclosure housings. InFocus was the largest projector manufacturer in the world with dozens of competitors. If you wanted a large High-Definition image, projectors were the only way to go. Fast forward to 2013, InFocus is now owned by Vizio and their main products are digital whiteboard solutions for education. Projectors are only a small piece of their business and there are only a few companies left in the projector business.

Inexpensive flat panel displays using LED panels have made it affordable to create gigantic video walls and displays, which were once the bread and butter of projectors. But projectors aren’t dead; they have found a new home in 3D visualization. Designers and artists are using projectors in new ways to help communicate and create interest, projecting moving images onto 3-dimensional surfaces that could never be accomplished with flat panels. The 3-dimensional surface is mapped and then images are mapped to those surfaces.

3D projection mapping is finding it’s way into a number of markets, advertising, promotional events and most interestingly, transportation. Designers can now build a 3D model using 3D printing and then project different colors, materials, finishes onto the body and experiment with features like the rims while also selecting real-life backgrounds to see how their designs will look in an infinite number of situations.

Flat Panel Displays
Flat panel displays have changed the way we look at the world and how we receive our information throughout the day. As the price of flat panels have come down and the available size and resolution has increased, designers and architects can do things that were not possible or practical before. We are no longer just limited to how we display information on a 16 x 9 rectangle; we can arrange an almost infinite number of rectangles or “tiles” to create mosaics, artistic installations, in-store display and shopping assistants.

It was great going to InfoComm to see old friends and learn about new technologies and was a great wake-up call for me to stay more on top of technology trends. For the past 10 years people have been talking about the convergence of Business and Entertainment technologies and how they each drive each other. Walking through the show I realized that those lines have become even more blurred and may be gone all together.