InfoComm 2022: Reviews and Reflections
By John Doyle, CTS-D, WiredScore AP: Home, SmartScore AP
Walking from my conveniently located hotel to the newly constructed campus of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted with free transportation to different wings of the conference. Shared rides were offered via a “Tesla Loop” (not to be confused with the “Tesla Hyperloop” Elon Musk’s company has been developing since 2012), a fleet of Tesla electric vehicles (EVs) lined up to whisk trade show visitors in quiet, air conditioned, and environmentally friendly comfort to various sites at the convention center.
I felt a certain welling of professional pride making the short trip to the site as ESD had a huge hand in creating the virtual welcome mat for this year’s attendees. ESD designed much of the technology infrastructure for the new West Hall and consulted on the enormous 150-foot x 71-foot Samsung direct view LED video wall at the hall’s entrance where AVIXA signage was displayed prominently among various other trade show sponsors. ESD’s contribution involved substantial coordination between designers to accommodate the tremendous weight, infrastructure, and fire protection systems required for such a massive installation.
But I digress. On with the tour…
Best In Show
Taking a well-deserved spotlight in this year’s event is one of the convention’s strategic show partners, Crestron. With pandemic-induced business disruptions, the past two years have been challenging for the AV industry’s leader in control and routing systems. Crestron has been navigating devastating chipset shortages and a shift in technology planning in the AV construction community as organizations look towards a hybrid workforce with new demands for “as easy as home” approaches to home systems. Crestron’s answer to a dynamically changing world was on full display at InfoComm.
The industry giant flexed its tech muscles, literally, showcasing an impressive display of new products, including their Microsoft Teams Flex phones. These devices enable users to join Teams calls without having to first login to a laptop—perfect for when rush hour traffic has you racing into the office to join a call at the last minute. Crestron says the Flex video desk phone with handset feature a native Teams experience, intuitive interface, and high-definition audio and video conferencing. Another advantage is the ability to share workstation content to Teams call participants without taking up valuable workstation real estate in a new hybrid office environment.
Crestron also demonstrated other innovations, including the long-awaited DM-NVX wall plate encoder/decoder devices which provide a cleaner installation of their networked AV solution. Additionally, their DM lite line introduces new USB-C transmitter wall plates which is particularly timely as many personal devices move towards this standard interface. Finally, among their array of black boxes, Crestron has introduced a new PCI card for direct integration of their streaming signals to a workstation tower.
Not all of Crestron’s innovations were in the spotlight, but they are no less impactful. Rather quietly, Crestron is also addressing the chip shortage and shipping delays with their virtual control software solutions. Crestron is seeing the opportunity for ongoing service and system upgrades by putting the processing hardware burden onto information technology department servers, alleviating the need to continually overhaul Crestron hardware. The industry has been talking about AVaaS (AV as a service) for years, and this very well may be the start of that transition.
Crestron’s recent partnership with 1Beyond was also prominently on display with conference goers lining up in a 45-minute queue to see a demonstration of a new approach to meeting equity. For the uninitiated, 1Beyond is a legacy broadcast video company that developed an impressive camera tracking technology that provides a production-level user experience for larger conference room environments. Multiple cameras can be deployed to automatically track the active talker, switch camera angles, and seamlessly focus on participants. Judging by the long lines, the public is responding enthusiastically.
Crestron’s latest approach to “meeting equity” was not the only answer on display at this year’s conference. Other tech companies are creating equal experiences for meeting participants across different workspaces that include remote work locations, traditional conference rooms, training spaces, and across various other meeting platforms. In a post-pandemic environment, video has joined audio as the standard for workplace collaboration.
The buzz on the show floor seemed to focus on the two high tech elephants in the room—Zoom and Microsoft Teams—and how each are approaching the concept of meeting equity. Zoom has attacked this at the software level with its “Smart Gallery View” feature that works with compatible hardware developed by manufacturing partners. Microsoft Teams, meanwhile, showcased its “Front Row” technology which leverages an individual’s camera features to enable focused participation in their software.
To take full advantage of the features of Front Row, Microsoft has been championing newcomer Jupiter, with their 21:9 LCD displays and 21:9 interactive LCD displays. This unconventional aspect ratio leverages the human retina’s capacity to see images in an ultra-wider perspective without a seam breaking up the image across two displays in a traditional dual-display room. The caveat to all this is you must buy into Jupiter’s windowing processor technology to allow for a more integrated solution on this larger canvas.
Dominating the smaller conference room deployments market (and conveniently next-door neighbors to one other at the conference) were Logitech and Poly. Each offering an all-in-one camera solution that integrate camera tracking and focused participant software, both companies are strong contenders in the market. Logitech’s booth showcased their Rally line but of particular note was their Scribe system, a whiteboard capture device that integrates directly with the Rally system for sharing content into a meeting. The Scribe software can use artificial intelligence (AI) to make the presenter translucent, offering viewers an unobstructed look at white board content.
Poly (formerly Plantronics, one of Silicon Valley’s oldest tech companies) also garnered attention with its E70 camera system and its capabilities for larger conference rooms in a small form factor. This system leverages the strengths of Poly’s legacy EagleEye camera and amps it up for multi-camera spaces. Company representatives outlined plans to incorporate the network capabilities of its Poly G7500 codec for audio and video. The thought is that soon everything will be network-capable and the need for expensive transmitter/receivers may fall away as the technology becomes just another piece of the chipset.
Both Poly and Logitech have versions of a room scheduling panel each is marketing heavily to customers looking for a unified system. While Crestron’s scheduler panel has not really changed much, the company boasts the panel’s compatibility with the bigger players in the resource scheduling and space utilization software arena such as AppSpace, NFS, and 22Miles. Much of the recent talk in resource scheduling and space utilization seems to be hovering around corporate messaging. Those developers with feet in the digital signage market have a distinct advantage by providing a single point of contact through their mobile apps. These not only facilitate scheduling, but they can also be used for polling staff, pushing out notifications and keeping employees engaged. Expect this tactic to continue to develop as organizations continue to seek out new technologies to accommodate the hybrid work force.
It is a short walk from conference room cameras and monitors to digital signage, both figuratively and literally. As I walked the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, there was an overwhelming wow factor with video walls almost to the point of saturation. A number of standouts, however, were able to rise above the crowd. MAXHUB had some incredible video wall kits with integrated speakers and USB / HDMI connections for simple plug-and-play setups. Their booth also touted an impressive 98-inch LCD screen at an economical price point (less than $9k MSRP) albeit with a slightly less lumen output (350 nit) than the go-to 98-inch displays of their competitors. The manufacturer also had some very intriguing collaboration cameras, such as their 360 and 180 units, complete with focused participant software. The picture capture quality was quite impressive.
Other notable vendors at this year’s conference include:
Across the show floor, holographic booth displays were on exhibit, gathering crowds of people with jaw-dropping resolution. These booths provide a video conferencing experience where it truly looks like the person is sitting in the booth in front of you.
Furniture for the Future
Surprisingly, many of the most impressive booths were NOT heavy on video or audio at all. They featured furniture designs by two manufacturers: Heckler and Salamander Designs. Heckler’s booth had some elegant all-in-one wall mounted systems for huddle spaces that seem to pair well with Logitech’s Rally systems. Heckler’s video meeting kit system conveniently hides all components in a clean acoustical felt wall pad complete with a single RU rack slot and removable storage tray that allows the integrator to build off site and simply mount into the system during commissioning.
Salamander Design displayed several innovative furniture products. Their mothership is their Cisco-inspired/designer Infiniti conference table. This product is available in six, eight, 10, 12 and 14 seat configurations with a design that allows for true meeting equity. No one’s face has an obstructed view. Additionally, AV components can be easily mounted into the tables pedestal base in convenient vertical rack slots with active fans. The table top itself was designed to reject ambient light to improve illumination of participants’ faces. Besides their table, Salamander also demonstrated their incredibly low-profile credenza and height adjustable display mount. This product also has vertical rack slots, active fans, and a chimney that allows for thermal management so that the heat from rack equipment is pushed out of the credenza and up behind the displays. The displays themselves are height adjustable with a mount that is perfect for interactive displays that meet Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) compliance.
Our last stop at InfoComm takes us into another dimension—at least virtually. Modus VR is new at InfoComm this year and their booth was a game changer. This software company has specifically targeted the AV market with their virtual reality (VR) system that allows AV designers to quickly throw together a VR environment to show perspective clients the predictable performance of a conference room/AV-enabled space. Modus has partnered with dozens of AV product manufacturers to integrate actual product specs into their VR renderings to depict how camera field of view, microphone pick-up pattern, speaker reflections, and a given acoustical environment may react. This is a game changer in aiding a customer in formulating technology decisions. We expect this is going to become an integral part of a design firms tool chest moving forward and may end up expanding further into the architectural arena as well as other disciplines in construction design.
InfoComm 2022 was notable for many reasons. After two years of pause, there was sense of eagerness in the air. The packed convention center alone is evidence that people are looking for the latest tech again and Avixa was there to deliver. The talk on the show floor was not of chip shortages and shipment delays but, rather, “what tools are there out there to help me navigate the new normal?” We expect more software and hardware innovation will continue to dominate the conversation.
With articles like this, Senior Audio Visual Consultant John Doyle freely shares his knowledge and experience as part of his commitment to ESD’s mission to improve society through the built environment.
For more information on the latest technology solutions for your building and/or workplace, reach out to ESD’s Technology team.
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