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Viewpoint: How Fast is the Pace of Technological Progress?

Rachael Harris
(Image credit: Future)

It all started on the airplane. With six hours between me and Las Vegas, I knew I had to figure out a way to put the quiet time to good use. So, I decided to watch the entirety of a premium network series that I don’t subscribe to at home, of course.

The show was set 15 years in the future, just as scientists were releasing a technology using principals of quantum physics to connect users to their one true love. Heartwarming, right? Sort of? Somewhat. Nevertheless, the visual world they built around the premise was believable, engaging, and technologically just far enough out of reach to inspire an AV tech in all the right ways.

The Future Is Now

Fifteen years is not so far into the future. We can all relate to how video and communication technologies have changed and developed since 2007. In that time, we have gone from having mobile phones that just make calls to having whole computers in our pockets. We now expect to see a person's face when we are talking to them from halfway around the world. And we have tidied up our desks and living rooms with flat panel displays devoid of cathode ray tubes. Looking toward the next 15 years of innovation through the eyes of today's Hollywood art directors just might hold some inspirations for what we can expect on the technical horizon. 

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One of the prominent features of the production design for this show were transparent screens. They had them on everything—cell phones, computer monitors, even a large-format transparent TV screen—which made for a beautiful and luxurious installation over a living room fireplace. It disappeared into the décor when switched off and hooked me right in, as in: I want that, where is it?

Retro Sci-Fi Spaceship

(Image credit: Getty RF)

Cut to InfoComm 2022.

I was casually strolling the show floor, collecting cards and smiles, when I stumbled upon the transparent OLED (opens in new tab) of the future world, right there, before my eyes. Neither a prototype nor a CGI trick, this sci-fi screen (opens in new tab) was a dream no more, ready for real-world applications today. Right there on the show floor.

I was really inspired because it illustrated to me just how close we are to having many of the technologies that have only existed in human imagination for centuries. Items like this have long been the domain of creatives like writers and scene designers, but we have come to a point where Pro AV really has the tools to turn even farfetched ideas (opens in new tab) into reality.

I was really inspired because it illustrated to me just how close we are to having many of the technologies that have only existed in human imagination for centuries.

And not just with transparent screens. We are showcasing tools like LED virtual stages, which break barriers for the dreamers themselves, boosting the potential for use cases traditionally handled by greenscreens on the soundstage and in the office.

As the AV industry continues to respond to the recent remote work situation and the subsequent, often reluctant, return to offices around the world, the explosion of creativity in audio and video products will continue—encouraging new standards of ease of use, security, and connectivity to make modernity look a lot like the future dreams of the past.

Early Inspiration

All this thinking of the past and looking toward the future takes my mind back to the dawn of my own career in this field.

Cut to Memory Montage.

When I was a teenage girl, just becoming interested in audio engineering as a career, my dad gave me my first pair of pro headphones. He was a creative, future-forward thinker in his own right, and delivered the gift along with an unexpected aspiration for his daughter. He thought the path would lead me to participate in the development of a well-known and loved situation simulator from a fantasy space exploration show on TV. I was not thinking that big at the time and brushed the comment off, as teenage girls tend to do.

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Even though I avoided my father's high expectations at the time, that was one of my first inspirations as a budding AV tech. Now, I may not be mixing on a starship, but I am still finding inspiration all around me, whether via in-flight entertainment, on the trade show floor, or motivated by the need for an urgent solution at the office. 

I hope we are all experiencing the positive results of today's stimulating technical environment, and using this opportunity to continue to imagine new creative solutions that improve the way we work and that look good enough for the silver screen. For me, after seeing what I have seen on TV reflected back to me from one of the centers of our AV universe, I know that if the future is coming from anywhere, it's coming from us.

Rachael Harris currently works with the team responsible for video streaming inside of a large financial institution. She began her career as a regional theater lighting technician and steadily expanded that skillset to include national and international touring, technical direction, stage management, production management, and venue management. She joined her first AV company as a technical manager, where she developed her understanding of end-user operation and AV system design and installation. Harris continues to consider all of her projects through a showbiz lens and strives to furnish her colleagues and clients with streamlined, approachable solutions that deliver smooth communications.