Blueprint for Success: A Business Accelerator Is Born

Julian Phillips, AVI-SPL
(Image credit: Future)

Donning his signature black turtleneck, Steve Jobs ambled on to the stage at Mac World 2007 and proclaimed, “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.” He was, of course, talking about the launch of the iPhone—and how right he was. Before the end of that decade, smartphones had revolutionized the way people worked and played, and had dominated the attention span of a generation.

[Blueprint for Success: Learn from the Past, Shape Your Future]

I believe we have now arrived at a new “tipping point” where artificial intelligence, most recently popularized by ChatGPT, will change everything as well. I also believe the AV industry is ideally positioned to take advantage of AI engines and bots, helping to shield us from recession and acting as a powerful accelerator of business transformation and profitable revenue growth.

Over the last 30 years, the Pro AV industry has grown to be a $258 billion powerhouse (according to AVIXA), helping to transform business collaboration, education, government, healthcare, entertainment, and hospitality around the world. In the most part, this success has been achieved through the curated fusion of space, content, and technology.

Our traditional AV technology has helped people tell better stories, communicate remotely, engage and delight audiences, educate and inform, and simulate real life situations. To that end, we have played our part in the progressive digital transformation of the economy.

If you are not already adopting AI in your business, then you might already be behind the competition.

Now, envision a new technology that goes beyond being a mere aid to human productivity, but can perform the work for human beings instead. This technology is so advanced that it instills a sense of job insecurity among knowledge workers, akin to how agricultural laborers felt during the industrial revolution 250 years ago.

That technology is AI, and it is no longer the science fiction of Space Odysseys and Ex Machinas; it is here, it is now, and it’s already playing a significant role in shaping our future. AV industry leaders, therefore, need to resist any luddite reflexes and embrace it with open minds and open arms.

To help allay fears and encourage experimentation and discover pathways to business value, here are four ways AI can assist the AV industry to experience another 30 years of sustainable and profitable growth.

1) Audio Fidelity

During the pandemic (and when permitted), my kitchen was being remodeled over a two-week period. My office is on the other side of the wall, and I was on nonstop Teams and Zoom calls in the middle of crashing, banging, sawing, and swearing. Not once did any remote participants during these meetings hear anything other than my voice, AI playing its role in keeping the good and getting rid of the bad without any additional hardware or programming.

These very same AI engines are moving beyond video calls and headsets into open spaces and immersive experiences. There is not a single audio manufacturer not embracing the power of AI, with some ahead of the pack.

2) Video Equity

Post COVID-19, many organizations are seeing the benefits of a “video first” culture. Unfortunately, there are still issues with video quality and the equality of experience between in-person and remote participants. And this is having a real impact on return-to-office (RTO) strategies. 

Again, AI can play a significant role. Microsoft’s VRTO (Virtual Real-Time Optimization) uses AI to code and decode video to make best use of available bandwidth, helping to reduce video freezing and pixelation, resulting in a more stable and high-quality video experience.

[Viewpoint: The Struggle for Presence Equity Is Real]

Zoom has developed "Smart Gallery View." This feature uses AI and machine learning algorithms to adjust the video feed layout and ensure that all participants in a meeting are visible and clearly framed. Zoom also offers an AI-powered feature called "Touch Up My Appearance" (tough job in my case), which uses machine learning algorithms to smooth out facial features and reduce the appearance of blemishes and wrinkles on the video feed. This feature is designed to improve the appearance of users during video calls and help them feel more confident and professional.

3) Repetitive Tasks

I was recently on stage at AVI-SPL’s global Sales Acceleration Summit (SAS), and I asked 500 salespeople and designers if they knew anything about ChatGPT. Virtually every hand went up. After my speech I was approached by dozens of people regaling stories of how they were actively using it to write code, format statements of work, conduct research on customers, create copy for marketing campaigns, and solve technical problems without referring to manuals.

For the CTS holders reading right now, ask ChatGPT to calculate viewing aspect ratios for you (providing a few simple inputs) and watch what happens. In short, we just don’t have enough qualified people in the global AV talent pool to meet current demand, if we keep doing our jobs the same way we have always done them. We must embrace AI tools like ChatGPT to minimize repetitive, manual tasks and liberate our people to create more value and deliver better experiences for our customers.

4) Business Intelligence

Let’s move on from the agricultural laborers to the mill owners for a minute, the business leaders of the Pro AV industry. Are you listening? This AI stuff is for you as much as it is for the techies.

There are countless ways in which AI can be used to eliminate recurring costs and redundant overheads, streamline business processes, and provide real insights into customer and market behaviors. If you are not already adopting AI in your business, then you might already be behind the competition.

[Beyond the Tech: 'SEO' Is Three Critical Components for Any Successful AV Project]

Now is the time to experiment, dedicate resources to look at how AI can help you to transform your business. As Rudyard Kipling would direct you, “Meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters all the same.”

We return to Apple, this time with current CEO Tim Cook, who declared earlier this year that AI is a major focus for the company. But he also said something very profound at an MIT commencement address back in 2017: “I'm not worried about artificial intelligence giving computers the ability to think like humans. I'm more concerned about people thinking like computers.” Put that in your ChatGPT and smoke it!

Julian Phillips

Julian Phillips is the managing director of XTG, the AVI-SPL Experience Technology Group, and was named a member of the SCN Hall of Fame in 2019.