“It will be as disruptive as the internet!”

Cue—massive eye roll.

It’s not often you leave a trade show hearing “wow, xy technology blew the show away!” Yet this was in fact the resounding reaction the residential AV tech community had walking away from the CEDIA 2016 show held in Dallas September 15-17. What was even more exciting to me is that said disruptor VUI, or voice as a user interface, is just as applicable to the pro AV market as it is to residential, and mainstream consumer demand, coupled with major investment from a titan of Silicon Valley, is poised to seriously drive growth.

The keynote speaker responsible for the bold statement above was Charlie Kindel, director of Alexa smart home at Amazon. The presence of Amazon at CEDIA wasn’t limited to a one-off, high-profile platform addressing show attendees; Amazon had a pervasive presence with a large booth and as the official sponsor of CEDIA 2016 training and certification. Amazon suddenly went from being a DIY home automation gadget maker integrators were rightfully wary of, to a committed partner to some of the biggest brands in control: Crestron, Control4, and Lutron. “We want to partner with CEDIA members in this next disruption,” Kindel stated in his keynote, as SCN associate editor Matt Pruznick reported. “This is an inflection point we can look back on in 10 years and say, ‘We rode that wave.’”

Amazon’s smart home division has rather quietly been laying the groundwork for this sweep into control integration, hiring IT industry veterans from the likes of Oracle, Microsoft, and a less familiar name—points to anyone that remembers Premise Systems—to head up project management and business development. (Premise developed what was effectively an early IoT platform.)

In case this still leaves anyone questioning the potential impact on pro AV, I’ll point to Harman’s Paul Chavez, who has been championing the use of voice as a hue on the palette of modern interface design, which you can read about further in his SCN column in this month’s Consultants Guide. He acknowledges that this is a major departure from current design methodologies, which reminds me that we live in a world where disruption—despite being such an overused term—does in fact occur with technology, for better or worse.

Maybe next time that term comes up I can manage to issue a different ocular expression in response.