Friday, June 12, 2015

Infocomm 2015 - for what YOU will be looking!

We're setting aside Flash Fiction Friday this week for my annual look-ahead towards Infocomm. I'll not be attending this time around; with Karine not quite six-months post surgery this is an excellent time for me to not travel and continue to take care of things at home. Fear not; I'll still have my eyes on the show from afar, and have some thoughts on what I expect to hear and at what those of you who are journeying to Orlando should be looking.

Display Technology
Displays and loudspeakers are nice to see (and hear!) in person. We can be honest and admit that processing, capture, and transport gear looks like nothing more than a collection of black, greyish, or other-colored boxes; what resolution a matrix switch handles can be just as easily viewed on a spec sheet. Detailed evaluation requires the kind of time, controlled conditions, and freedom to experiment you'll not likely find at a trade show. We should, to a large extent, be looking at the things which we'd see and hear in the real world.

4K is obviously a big trend, with almost every display manufacturer on board. With OLED having finally arrived as a technology, this is a great chance to experience the difference between transmissive and emissive display technologies; I still have concerns about burn-in on OLED displays, but I'd expect them to look terrific.

Another thing which looks terrific, and of which I've spoken here before, is direct-view LED displays Christie, Barco, and Planar have all been showcasing direct-view LEDs with a 1.6mm pixel pitch. Silicon Core Lavender is an even more impressive 1.2mm.  I saw a demo of this at the Sapphire Marketting New York roadshow; it's jaw-droppingly beautiful with an equally jaw-dropping price tag. Drop by the Silicon Core booth and be amazed. Just don't ask what it costs.

No Empty Couches
Last year in Vegas one of the world's largest and most recognizable software companies purchased what felt like a square mile of show floor space which they populated with moderately comfortable couches, charging stations, and a handful of TVs showing the soccer tournament. It was the biggest expenditure for the least effect I've seen in a trade show.

This past year I'm expecting things to be different; with the announcement of the Surface Hub, Microsoft is taking a big step into the increasingly important and increasingly crowded huddle-space/small collaboration room field. The all-in-one arge touch display with a camera and microphone isn't a revolutionary concept, but but given that they own the operating system, I would expect Microsoft to have tighter software integration than many of their competitors. David Danto has sometimes extolled the value of off-the-shelf AV solutions rather than bespoke systems; I'd be curious to see the Surface Hub to evaluate what size room it can support as a standalone device. We've already been discussing possible use-cases for this in the office, including some non-traditional workflow options. It's definitely worth looking at and discussing with the Microsoft team.

Software eats Hardware - So Lets Accessorize!
I've made no secret of my growing interest in software-based solutions. One can use 
software for capture and playback, for control,  for video routing, for conferencing. This creates an increasing need for tools which can allow computers to access professional quality input and output devices. If you missed it last year, I'd suggest you see the demo of Audinate's soon-to-be-released Dante Via, which allows each application on a PC to be a separate input and output to a Dante network. It's quite nifty, and opens up many possibilities.
Also look for tools to move video and audio via USB. Yesterday I saw this press release from Phoenix Audio; it's a soundbar/microphone/SIP speakerphone with USB connectivity. This plus a flatpanel, webcam, and small form-factor PC can make a neat soft-codec based system. It's the kind of solution of which I'd love to see more. 

Look also for lower-cost camera options. The Vaddio Zoomshot/Wideshot fixed cameras were an early entry to this field, but their cost is still a bit high for the kinds of systems in which they'd be used. HuddleVu  and Logitech have low-cost PTZ cameras for these applications; I'd be on the lookout for other options as well.

On the same topic, I'd look for software, hardware, and hybrid hardware/software bridging solutions at the UCC pavilion. Vidyo had a nice demo last year of multi-site call involving Lync, a hardware Codec, and another software option. We'll need more options for bridging various technologies and platforms.

On the Network
IP-based systems are another exciting frontier. This year we're promised the long-awaited debut of Aurora Multimedia's "IPBaseT" system. This is an uncompressed video over 10G ethernet system, with a slew of interesting features (image tiling, Dante integration, etc). It's a system which promises a great deal. I know some of my colleagues are going to check it out to see if it delivers.

We need to talk about 10G copper vs Fiber. That's another post
There are also network-based video solutions from a variety of other players, both traditional and not. I'm especially curious to see how different players in this space handle the bandwidth demands of 4K video AND to chat with them to see if they can envision a path to 8K or higher. On the audio side, I'd interested in developments from the aforementioned Audinate as well as promised updates to QSC's QSYS platform.

I'm also quite curious to see who is taking advantage of the suite of the time synchonization protocols in the TSN/AVB standard. This is one for which many (including myself) have sounded a death knell before, but it appears to be alive and kicking. There are real issues which CAN be solved with these protocols if we are to use them. Time will tell.

Finally, Some Fun! (and not)
There are some things which I consider fun and would recommend: The Drunk Unkles concert is a great time and a chance for the industry to raise money for charity. AVNation and WAVE are co-hosting a "Tweetup" - largely a gathering of professionals who use the "AVTweeps" hashtag on Twitter, but all are welcome. 

What I'm not a fan of is in-booth raffles, giveaways, and other associated games. If that's what you like, enjoy. I suspect you'd get more out of the experience as a technology professional if you choose to NOT show up at the same time as a half-hundred other people looking to win a free iWatch and instead drop in when you can actually speak to a product expert. 

Last thought for anyone who is going:

As I said, I'm holding down the fort this year. That means that I need to count on YOU to be my eyes and ears on the floor, in training classes, around Orlando. That's right, you. So... look around. Tell me what you see. Hashtag it on twitter (and if you see sexist displays in any booths, do us all a favor and tag those #NotBuyingIt. You can tell the people there that I'd disapprove). 

Then come back, reflect on what you've learned, and see how you can use it to make your projects - and our industry - just a little bit better.


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