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Experience creation: the bar is always rising

We previously considered how the definition of a great experience is changing as well as the growing crossover between corporate and entertainment applications. Following that we looked at the concept of engagement and the importance of active participation. To conclude, Ian McMurray reveals how the AV industry continues to strive to create something that’s not available at home.

The idea of delivering a unique experience for each guest – which has the benefit of not only increasing engagement/immersion, but also of encouraging repeat visits – seems to be gaining traction.

“Interactivity is far from being done,” believes Peter Cliff, creative director at Holovis. “In fact, this is one of the most exciting spaces that we are currently developing new applications for, driven by our proprietary software. These go beyond standard touchscreens and gesture-based experiences into something that is personal for each guest or user, so in a theme park environment they can drive their own adventure and experience something completely different from another guest, whilst sharing the same physical space. We are doing this by using machine learning and AI platforms to invisibly track users around a space, understanding what they are interested in and customising their journey.”

Ross Magri, managing director of Sarner, is equally clear about what interactivity is – and where its future lies. “Interactive is an overused, and frequently misused, reference to anything that can be physically touched,” he considers. “This begs the question as to what is exactly meant in our industry when we refer to an interactive experience? In the early days, interactive was limited to pressing a button or the use of a touchscreen – but today, the meaning of interactive covers a host of technologies that range from a mechanical contraption to VR, blurring the defining line between what is and what is not interactive.”

“Bidirectional communication is important in creating an engaging AV experience”
Thomas Walter, NEC Display Solutions

React and respond
“Nevertheless: whether you call it interactive technology or AI or VR, the desire for visitors to interact with their environment is a key challenge for the AV designer,” he goes on. “This requires very sophisticated technology to meet the visitors’ expectations – and many of those technologies are still at the development stages. We’ve seen how what started as a smart speaker – such as Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home – has now become an integral part of how we seamlessly interact with technology; now, the challenge is to bring such technology into our industry and embrace it, allowing us to take the visitor experience to the next level.”

Smart speakers aren’t the only technology found in the home that are helping create new experiences. “Bidirectional communication is important in creating an engaging AV experience,” suggests Thomas Walter, who is section manager, strategic product marketing at NEC Display Solutions Europe. “This is augmented using sensors to help measure audience behaviour to in turn make the experience even more relevant.”

Magri talks about technologies that are becoming increasingly widespread in the home – but that in itself provides something of a challenge to those trying to help lure blasé consumers away from the experiences they can get from their couches.

“The bar is always rising,” believes Matt Barton, CEO of 7thSense Design, “and it’s the AV industry’s responsibility to react and respond to this with new technologies and developments. The industry is faced with the challenge to provide something that’s not available at home. Audiences want new technology-driven experiences that are worth leaving the house to see.”

It becomes apparent that the industry’s focus on creating great experiences is growing – wherever those experiences take place. “Creating a great experience with AV is just as important in a boardroom, a high street store or a university lecture hall as it is at a theme park,” says Matt Saunders, product marketing manager – visual solutions at Sharp UK. “In a corporate environment, for example, having the right AV equipment can make or break a meeting experience.”

No longer enough
It’s just two years ago that InfoComm rebranded itself as AVIXA – the audiovisual and integrated experience association – placing ‘experience’ at the heart of what the organisation felt the AV industry should be about. To deliver great equipment and to deliver technically flawless installs was no longer enough: for continued success, the industry needed to pivot towards how its efforts were perceived by those for whom its solutions were designed.

“A huddle space designed to ensure people can collaborate effectively on digital content, see and hear optimally whatever someone wants to share – whether they’re physically in the space or patched in remotely through a video connection – and comprehend everything and everyone in support of true, productive collaboration – that’s a great AV experience,” declares Brad Grimes, AVIXA’s senior director of communications. “And because this industry is uniquely expert in understanding what outcome is desired and how AV technology can be applied effectively to achieve that outcome, AVIXA believes the AV industry is in the experience business.”

As noted at the outset: AV-driven experiences can be incredibly diverse; from transportation to hospitality to meetings to education to spectaculars – and everything in between. But, whatever the application or environment, the industry seems to be settling around a definition of what a great experience is: it’s one that delivers on a user’s expectations. Whether that expectation is “it just works” or “that was truly memorable” – it’s all about happy customers. 

Case study: A sense of the past
One of the major attractions at the sprawling Tang Paradise theme park in the ancient city of Xi’an is an artificial waterfall and rock garden that is designed to communicate the glamour and glory of the ancient Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Known as the Silver Bridge Waterfall, the 35m-wide, 16m-high attraction draws thousands of visitors daily. The installation features four Christie D20WU-HS laser projectors powered by 7thSense media servers.