The University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine, based in Chapel Hill, is a beehive of activity. In lecture halls and smart classrooms, the ideas never stop. Just ask Ben Whitfield in the school’s Academic Technology Services department. Whitfield’s role covers “a broad gamut,” from AV system design to product research, but he has a particular passion for AV project management. From this vantage point, he observes that AV over IP is the quickly becoming the “reality on the ground,” he said.
This exciting—but not always seamless—evolution from point-to-point systems to network-centric designs is creating more opportunities for in-house AV engineers and managers like Whitfield. With software-based approaches, and more ways to bring integrated experiences to life, Whitfield believes that we are living in the Golden Age of AV.
The Golden Age is a phrase that denotes prosperity and relative peace. It is often applied retroactively, after a period has ended, such as the Golden Age of Radio. Why does Whitfield think the industry’s halcyon age is occurring right now? It’s part technology development, part technology acceptance, he said.
“The use of technological tools, with the main focus of smartphones, has transformed us from conveying ideas and knowledge via ink and paper or audio transmissions to a world that communicates by face-to-face video interaction,” Whitfield noted. The acceptance of AV-enabled mediums—whether via phone, web conference, streaming lectures, et cetera—is what has ushered us into a new age of knowledge transfer, he said. “I call it the Golden Age because the acceptance is there. That was the first and major hurdle. All else moving forward will improve on that communication form.”
Furthermore, in many commercial verticals, AV is now the expectation, not the exception, to the rule. Most new classrooms include HD or UHD displays of some kind. Static whiteboards alone no longer cut it in the conference room. People raised with Apple TV and iPhones in their hands are demanding dynamic, technology-rich learning and working environments. Interest in augmenting AV applications with IoT access and AI is on the rise.
Also, consider the trend toward more streamlined and standardized AV: The days of pulling five or six wires for signal transport and power are gone. Compare how much rack space an AV pro needs now compared to 15 years ago. This means that we can integrate more AV at more touch points for a higher impact. Distributed teams can also be united in more meaningful ways thanks to software-based AV solutions.
What's your take? Are we living in the Golden Age of audiovisual technology, or does the commodification of components change the equation? Tweet your golden ideas to @AVTechnologyMag.
Margot Douaihy is a storyteller, polymath, and the editor-at-large of AV Technology magazine.