Author: Kyle Prescott, Director of A/V Engineering, Rahi Systems
When we started doing commercial A/V in the early 2000s, professional A/V was not focused on the user so much as making systems with the flexibility to solve pretty much any use case that could be imagined. There were inputs all around the room, links to other rooms, and a plethora of equipment and options for the user. People had to be trained to operate the equipment so there were only a few individuals in the company who could use it.
Yes, there often was a touchscreen for the user to choose which input they were using and which display that input was going to. The touch screen was usually ugly, but at the time there weren’t a lot of touch screens for users to interact with. The iPhone and iPad hadn’t been introduced so we got away with a lot of ugly designs.
Then the iPhone came out in 2007. The A/V technology we had to work with didn’t change but the expectations of the user did. Users wanted the A/V touchscreen to look like their smartphone. We tried to adapt the look of the iPhone to the touchscreen, but it was still difficult for most people to use. And conferencing was still driven primarily by the conference room’s platform.
Today, conferencing is driven by users on their desktops, laptops and mobile devices. Conference room designs must be comparable to what users are accustomed to experiencing on their personal devices.
Luckily, the market has provided some solutions. A lot of the conferencing platforms used in the mobile space have a conference room solution that enables us to provide a consistent experience. Our challenge as A/V integrators is to maintain that experience, so we’re not teaching people how to use something new when they get to the conference room.
At the same time, we have to accommodate the unique features of the conference room, where we might have multiple displays, lighting and environmental controls that we need to manage. Although we’re not necessarily designing user interfaces today, we’re adapting the platform’s interface to create the user experience in the room.
A/V equipment is getting more complex, but our job is to obscure that complexity for the user. Meeting participants should notice that the sound is better, but they don’t need to know that we’re using beamforming microphones, or that it goes through the network and we’re managing it all remotely. The user should just think, “Wow, what a great experience.”
It’s only going to get more complex and sophisticated from a technical perspective as more features are integrated into conferencing platforms. We’ll see artificial intelligence taking part in what happens in the meeting rooms — I imagine that these platforms are going to get into the context of this meeting, to take notes for you and send you action items at the end of the meeting. Virtual reality could play a role as well, such that we don’t have to meet in the conference room anymore. People can just meet in a virtual space.
At Rahi Systems, our specialists have been involved in the evolution of A/V technology over the past 15 years. We continue to monitor the trends and refine our methodologies to deliver a seamless A/V experience to the user.