Cool Factor

Cayce Pollard gets physically ill at the sight of bad design. The main character in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, Pollard experiences physical and mental peril at the sight of ugly logos. Fortunately, she's been able to make a living via her sensitivity. She travels around the world, giving the nod to the re-branding efforts of multi-national corporations. One shake of her head means months' of focus groups and expensive graphic design efforts are scrapped, and a company is back to square one.

While Pattern Recognition is a work of fiction, there are real "coolhunters" like Pollard in the world, and few of us realize it. They are highly paid by the most phenomenally successful businesses--the ones that succeed in creating a product that mysteriously resonates with the public on a subconscious level.

In some ways, the field of AV systems integration presents similar plights to its covert experts. Many are pained by poor audio in a restaurant, or physically weakened by the flaunting of an incorrect aspect ratio on Uncle Joe's giant new plasma screen. In these everyday moments, an AV guru has a choice to make. Commandeer Uncle Joe's remote control or clench your jaw and wait for the movie to end.

After all, these are the realities of today's technology-obsessed world. People want the objects, but they don't necessarily know if they're set up properly. Poor Joe wants his picture as big as possible on that new-fangled plasma screen. He doesn't care that he's missing the cinematographer's choices in every single shot. The top half of people's faces are missing and he doesn't blink. It's painful, but only to those of us in the know.

January is the peak of the AV knowledge season in some respects. With CES occurring at the beginning of the month, it's the one time of year when the mainstream media casts a glance in our direction. Suddenly there are news reports about televisions and home theater systems. There is much prospective analysis about wireless technology and random gadgets that will make our lives easier.

Many AV integrators will hear from their customers after CES is covered on the nightly news. There will be requests for the next big thing before it has been tested in the commercial AV landscape. There will be confusion about why certain technologies won't work in the boardroom. But this is where the AV guru's paid consultation comes into play. All the hype in the world won't make a videoconference go better. That big-screen flat panel won't do much for a client's image if its not formatted properly.