InfoComm, North America's largest audiovisual trade show for creative and technical professionals, welcomed more than 40,000 visitors and had nearly 1,000 exhibitors this year. With some of the latest technologies for display design, infrastructure, and audio at the show, the establishment challenged visitors to walk the floor and ask themselves "What Will You Create?" Here are some trends I noticed at the show that give a good idea of where the industry is headed.
Is LED Taking the Lead?
The Digital Signage Pavilion housed dozens of large format LED video walls. In previous years, there were few LED displays, and there were hardly any booths showcasing new significant advancements in flat panel displays. However, price drops for LED are still yet to be seen to make the cost competitive with flat panel displays.
Huddle Room Combo Systems
All-in-one huddle room solutions had a strong presence on the show floor. This market has grown from just a few manufacturers to almost every major (and some minor) players. These systems have a place in the industry, usually offering a soundbar, microphone array, camera, and USB connectivity in a single device that can mount above or below the display. Many of these devices allow personal computers to be used to host a web-based conference. The cameras range from a fixed wide angle, to optical zoom. Some offer microphones built in, while others rely on an external speakerphone to connect to the central soundbar unit. As you can see, there are many flavors that are sure to fit a user's needs.
One thing that did seem to be missing from these products was the ability to properly interface with USB-C computers. Some USB-to-USB-C adapters for laptops like Apple MacBooks only interface with USB hubs and hard drives, but limit some video peripherals from properly connecting. This is an issue that needs to be considered by manufacturers of these USB Huddle Room solutions moving forward.
There was a lot of buzz around voice-activated control using virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Home. While few widely adapted products exist, the industry seems fixed on forging a path to use these virtual assistants to control AV systems. A major concern with implementation is the security of such devices. Right now, they are a security risk and easily hackable. So, deploying them into a large-scale AV system at this time probably isn’t the best choice. But the industry is developing better ways to secure the data these assistants collect, and use it in an efficient way to help control AV experiences.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
This year it was clear that the plan is to move into AR and VR technology, but these types of systems are still not ready for primetime, and are only being used in niche applications. VR and AR are currently in test applications for a virtual walkthrough of building designs, live production events, or customer experience environments. The technology is still relatively new to the market so it's still trying to find its voice in the AV industry and break through the gimmick phase in the product lifecycle.
It is very clear from InfoComm 2017 that the convergence of AV and IT has finally happened. The floor was filled with products not just connected to the network, but living on it. Network security, layering, and traffic flow were taken into consideration in the development of AV-over-IP transceivers. The manufacturers finally “get it” when it comes to placing AV devices on a network. Whether it’s new advances in audio networking, or running 4K over of the network at 60Hz with 4:4:4 color space, it was great to see such advancements in this arena. Now, if we could only see more peer-to-peer AV/IP systems to help minimize servers and centralized rack equipment. Perhaps next year. Until then, what will you create?