This afternoon I had the opportunity to drop by Mitsubishi's Consultants' Roadshow here in New York. It was a nice opportunity to see what Mitsubishi and some other vendors are up to in terms of new AV products and all-too-briefly chat about the present and future of the industry. Throw in another stop for Delta Display's new short-throw front-projection videowall unit and a visit by the good folks from Biamp and today was quite the day for AV products, both new and familiar.
They also have their LASER/LED hybrid projector, which is the second one of these I've encountered. It's a promising technology for several reasons. With no lamp and no filter there's much reduced maintenance. It can be used in portrait or landscape mode with no sacrifice in reliability. Finally, there isn't the same "hotspotting" you'd sometimes get with a lamp-based projector, even if you point it at a somewhat reflective surface. Mitsubishi claims an advantage over their competitors in using only a single (green) color-wheel, allowing much better colors. It looked nice, but is hard to really judge against another model without a side-by-side comparison. Sadly, it shared the achilles' heel of all hybrid projectors I've seen thus far; it just isn't bright enough for all that many applications. In a reasonably dark room with what looked like about a 90" diagonal screen it looked fine, but at 3000 Lumens it just isn't bright enough for a larger display in most permanent installations I've encountered. They promised a short-throw version of this coming soon with the same collaborative tools as their traditional short-throw projector, located right on the other side of the room.
This one was interesting and the second multi-device network based wireless collaborative solution I'd seen today (stay tuned for the next one!). With the aid of a tiny (4" square by maybe an inch high) server box and a wireless router the projector was able to perform screen-mirroring from a laptop, iOS or android device, and even run a thinclient to a Windows OS on the server itself with no connections save a keyboard and mouse. The tablet applications are the kind of modern touch for which the "BYOD" environment is creating more and more need.
The rest of the space was occupied by Mitsubishi's partners. Crestron and AMX were both present with their newest touchpanel offerings. My schedule and the fact that I knew what they were both up to prevented me from getting too close a look, but for those who don't know I'll say this: Crestron's new panels have a clean, tablet-inspired appearance and AMX's latest panels with edge-to-edge glass and an ultra-wide aspect ratio are simply gorgeous.
Other vendors included Cybertouch, makers of infrared touch-overlays for flat-panel displays. They add shatterproof glass and extra cooling fans to give the displays a long lifespan even when laying on their back like a table. I wish we could have capacitive touch devices, but if you need something large it seems that camera-based systems are the only option. They have a multi-camera system which allows up to ten simultaneious touchpoints.
We also saw ThinkLogical, makers of fiber KVM extenders and switches as well as Kramer, makers of just about everything. The former even had a nice bit of synergy with our hosts in a fiber transport system that could run right into one of Mitsubishi's video walls.
But wait... I promised two collaborative tools and only gave you one! Earlier in the day, I was treated to a demonstration of Delta's new front-projection video wall system. The model we saw was 137" wide by 37" high for a 143" diagonal and a resolution of 3240x1080. Two edge-blended short-throw projectors provided a display which, even in a fairly well-lit room, was bright and clear. There are wider models with a third projector, and taller ones with projectors mounted beneath the screen as well as on top. The privacy screen across the top projectors serves double-duty as a bit of a light-guard for the screen. (Friendly tip - if you're discussing the increase width and placement of a third projector, don't gesture expansively with your arms before checking if the manufacturer's rep is behind you, especially if she might be getting herself a cup of coffee. Sorry Lainie!). The part that the Delta team seemed most eager to show off is the software; with a video camera mounted beside the left projector it is able to automatically calibrate the edge-blending at the touch of a button, giving re-calibrating "fine-tuning" fully automatically in less than a minute. The calibration software and edge-blending are handled by a dedicated PC
The collaboration software it's packaged with is also pretty slick. Video can be sent from laptops or tablets running their app. You can send a window, a file, or share desktops from multiple devices in a variety of windowing configurations. One video source can also be brought directly into the system through a capture-card on its PC.
So what was my takeaway from all this? Not too much, other than emphasizing that collaboration, video over IP, and mobile devices are on everyone's mind. It doesn't seem to be near the point at which it will replace traditional means of video transport, but customers are certainly looking for more options, and manufacturers are listening.