David Keene– There’s no better way to kick off InfoComm each year, than with the annual Projection Summit. The Monday-Tuesday Summit, that took place on the eve of the InfoComm show last week, tackled not just tech issues–everything from Laser-based digital cinema projectors, to certifying projectors for “Green”, to Big-Chip LEDs (yes, brighter LED-light engine projectors are coming, look for 1500 lumens this year, 2000+ next)– but also business/marketing issues surrounding the entire range of the projector market from Picoprojectors to Digital Signage, to Large Venue.
3D is where projectors really stand out. Whether you love or hate 3D, you cannot deny it’s an important topic, and will be the testing ground for other innovations in both projection and flat panels– in all the AV markets. One of the most compelling presentations at the Projection Summit featured Len Scrogan, director, instructional technology, Boulder Valley School District, explaining how the use of 3D projectors in their 29,000 student system has greatly benefited students and teachers. Scrogan revealed some interesting new findings: despite hear-say and anecdotal complaints by some that 3D can “cause headaches” or other discomfort, the Boulder Valley School District found, with careful studies the 3D was helping students in this regard: the District agreed, using student data, with a recent American Optometric Association report stating that 3D is the best diagnostic tool for kids’ eye problems. Using 3D in the classroom is actually helping diagnose common eyesight problems in students– problems that would have gone undiagnosed for years. The students are then referred to eye doctors to treat these general eyesight problems that are unrelated to 3D. AOA has embraced 3D, and is coming out with position paper later this summer on using 3D in education.
Another session that stood out, and pointed to important trends: Bill Coggshall of Pacific Media Associates, while parsing projector market segment growth, addressed the Education market, the issue of interactivity, and the recent boom in short-throw projector sales. Will this continue? Education is 40 percent of the projector market, up from 29 percent just two years ago. About 24 percent of that is short throw. Also, the interactive market is largely within education and training. And while the two largest education markets in world, US and UK, are saturating and slowing a bit, new markets are growing fast: Asia, Latin America, Africa. And according Coggshall, the shorter the throw of the projector, the more expensive, and because prices for short throw are still high, developing countries cannot afford a lot of them, so the trend is being slowed. Coggshall also pointed to trends of the traditional interactive Whiteboard now being challenged by new technologies, especially interactivity built into projectors, and the rise of the Tablets.
And that dynamic, that Coggshall addressed, will not be confined to the education market. At last year’s Projection Summit, one commentator, proclaimed that “the projector is dead”. Well, it’s not. And it won’t be anytime soon. In fact, sales of projectors are increasing. But whether small screens, in particular the personal screens of the smartphone and the tablet, will indeed challenge the reign of the larger screen in education, digital signage, and many markets.