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ISE 2022: A warm AV embrace

More than two years on from ISE 2020, when we clearly didn’t know what was about to hit us all, this year’s return, and the first full event in Barcelona, was under a lot of pressure to succeed. But succeed it did – in spades! Installation editor Rob Lane reports from what is still Europe’s biggest annual AV event

It was never in doubt, was it? ISE 2022 was fantastic, and was just what the pro and residential industry needed after over two years away from this essential event. The organisers – Integrated Systems Events, co-owned by AVIXA and CEDIA – deserve a huge pat on the back for pulling this one out of the bag, and the move to Barcelona is already proving to be a shrewd one: the Fira Barcelona, Gran Vía is a fabulous venue, with loads of room to grow (see our interview with ISE managing director Mike Blackman for more on this).

Of course, the event wasn’t as big as pre-Covid ones – but that was to be expected. And in fact, an impressive 43,691 unique attendees from 151 countries (making a total of 90,372 visits to the show floor) visited a not inconsiderable 834 exhibitors across the four exhibition days. 

ISE 2020 had already seen a drop in attendees, of course, thanks to the beginnings of the Covid pandemic, with 52,000 visitors (116,000 visits to the show floor) – a drop of around 30,000 punters compared to 2019, which boasted a record-setting crowd of 81,268. But there’s every expectation that numbers will return to pre-Covid levels very soon (with exhibitors likely to hit or even exceed 2019’s 1,300+ next year) , and indeed most exhibitors we spoke to talked of quality over quantity this year, with attendees keen on doing business as opposed to kicking tyres.

As well as a plethora of fabulous stands to visit, across 48,000 square metres and 5 halls, ISE 2022 had conferences and panels in spades, with AI and the metaverse understandably taking centre stage.

Mike Blackman gave his opening speech for ISE 2022 after cutting the ribbon with other luminaries at 10am on day 1 of the show, with the opening keynote address coming from media artist and pioneer in the aesthetics of data and machine intelligence, Refik Anadol, later that day. 

Day 2’s keynote came from Alan Greenberg, CEO and co-founder of Illuminarium. ‘Next Generation Immersive Entertainment’ explored ‘the technical challenges and the exciting future, with Greenberg mapping out the Next Generation of Immersive Entertainment.

New to ISE 2022 was the Influencer Lounge, situated in hall 2 and designed as a base for influencers and content creators to create and show off their exciting show-related content. 

Hall 5’s Conference Stage hosted a plethora of new programmes, including the Smart Workplace Summit, Superyacht Technology Summit and Live Events Summit – alongside the Smart Building Conference, the Control Rooms Summit and Digital Signage Summit.

Also new for this year, ISE teamed up with IOT Solutions World Congress – the largest international event devoted to industry transformation through disruptive technologies. The event took place in Hall 4 during the first three days of ISE, and was free to ISE attendees. 

With 5 halls and 834 exhibitors, it’s impossible to cover everything the Installation team (along with its partners at the ISE Daily) saw out in Barcelona. However, we’ve put together a summary of some of our favourites over the next few pages – alongside roundups of a selection of key conferences we had the pleasure of attending with our ‘access all areas’ pass!

Hybrid working was always going to feature in a big way, and Biamp promoted its portfolio of high-performance AV systems for meeting rooms in hall 3, with the introduction of the Vidi family expanding its range.

The Vidi 100 is designed for small rooms and huddle spaces and is a cost-effective 4K camera with a 120-degree field of view and a built-in mic array , whilst the Vidi 250 is designed for small to medium-sized rooms and includes a 12MP sensor.

Crestron showcased its next generation of AirMedia Presentation Systems, a portfolio of wireless presentation devices – purpose-built to support more intuitive and efficient meetings in the modern workplace with one-touch presentation and meeting control from any collaboration device.

AirMedia boasts enhanced BYOM capabilities and supports wireless presentation and wireless conferencing, whilst AirMedia Connect adds wireless presentation capabilities to any space without the need for additional wiring or infrastructure.

Barco’s OpSpace solution was on show in hall 3 also. Bringing all sources together into one ergonomic virtual environment, OpSpace allows operators to freely open, move, and position multiple sources across a virtual canvas at the same time, allowing many options in terms of arranging and calling up content. It runs over a standard IP network, so there is no limitation to the number and type of sources to be monitored.

Meanwhile, Yamaha Commercial Audio was pushing its Adecia audio system for teleconferencing – now integrated with Barco’s Clickshare.

Hall Technologies was keen to discuss its “change of direction” and push into the European market during its debut at ISE. The company showcased 13 products in live demos and static displays, including the EMCEE200 multiview presentation switcher and scaler; and Discovery 2, a 4K extension kit with flexible USB and HDMI capabilities.

Hall’s recent acquisition by Gun Lake Investments has enabled it to invest in support, supply and solutions. It also has a new global distribution facility in the Netherlands. The firm rebranded from Hall Research in 2021 and hired a whole new development, sales and marketing team.

Williams AV showcased its digital, FM, infrared and induction loop wireless audio, as well as video annotation and presentation systems, which are used in an array of commercial applications, including hearing assistance, language interpretation, tour, corporate, education, government and house of worship.

During a delicious meal at the Fira’s on-site restaurant, Nuclo, the team from Poly were keen to discuss the company’s Sync 10 all-in-one USB speakerphone – launched in late April and showcased at ISE for the first time. The newest member of the Sync family, the plug-and-play USB device is designed to upgrade the home office experience, converting any space into a “personal conference room”. 

There were a plethora of audio products on show at ISE 2022, in hall 7. d&b audiotechnik was promoting its four-channel, Dante-enabled DSP 5D amplifier, intended to address a brand range of installation projects, alongside d&b Soundscape, its scaleable audio system for immersive experiences. In the same hall, L-Acoustics’ interactive L-ISA Studio Workstation allowed guests to get hands-on L-ISA Studio instructions from the company’s team, alongside info on the SB10i compact sub, and the all-new L-ISA Processor II. 

For residential audio, B&W loudspeakers appeared on new owner Sound United’s stand in hall 2, alongside Polk Audio, Classe, Definitive Technology and Boston Acoustics, and amp manufacturers Denon and Marantz – and we were pleased to see that the B&W espressos were still flowing, as it had been in previous years! 

Residential AV, of course, has always been crucial to ISE, with custom integrator association CEDIA jointly owning the event with AVIXA. Indeed, the very first ISE, held in Geneva back in 2004 with a modest 120 exhibitors and 3,500 visitors, was mainly residential. New CEDIA global president and CEO, Daryl Friedman, is keen to see residential AV grow in future years. “We want to get back to that first year [of ISE], when residential was really a very big presence,” he told us ahead of ISE 2022. Read more here

CEDIA was certainly keen to grow its membership during ISE 2022. Its Build a Stronger Business with Professional CEDIA Certification session in the ISE Dome (supplied by VIOSO) provided insight and consultation on how to leverage CEDIA certification to advance residential integrator careers. 

Led by a panel of CEDIA certification volunteers and integration business owners – Pete Trauth, founder of Nirvana Home Entertainment, Mike Ranpura, director at Smart Life AV, Baker Stone System founder Andy Baker, and Alan Matthews, founder of Automated Spaces – and hosted by Mandy Beckner, VP of education and training for CEDIA, the panel discussed ‘certification journeys’ and championed CEDIA’s Cabling & Infrastructure Technician (CIT) and Integrated Systems Technician (IST) qualifications, something the panellists were all involved in developing. 

When it came to display offerings, Sharp and NEC were together at ISE for the first time in hall 3, following their recently formed joint venture, and showcased a new combined lineup that included solutions for hybrid working and connecting teams for successful remote collaboration  – alongside applications for retail, transportation and higher education sectors. 

PPDS unveiled the Phillips E-Line, the company’s most advanced and complete SoC education display range, combining the power of a PC, hardware and touch technology, dedicated whiteboard, and extensive preinstalled and Cloud-based educational software and features.

The range is wall mountable and available in 65in, 75in and 86in size variants across two model categories to suit a variety of budgets and needs – entry level BDL3052E and mainstream BDL4052E.

Education was front and centre at ISE 2022, no more so than during the Digital Learning Summit, which included sessions on creating cohesive education experiences in hybrid spaces, how facilities are using immersive technology, how to develop an ecosystem for hybrid learning, and a keynote from Professor Fridolin Wild, who told attendees that he wanted to talk about his dreams: “I have four ‘ghost in the machine’ dreams I have for educational technology”.

Wild leads the performance augmentation lab (PAL) at the Institute of Educational Technology of The Open University in the UK, researching radical new approaches to accelerating and enhancing learning.

During his session, ‘Ghost in the Machine: Rapid Reskilling with Augmented Reality’, Wild explained Demi-Sync AR technology – something that feels live but is actually pre-recorded. Making use of spacial computing, Demi-Sync is a platform for reality, so that reality is treated as a medium, “where we start different services, where we have content models” and “repositories where we have linkages between the whole enterprise ecosystem”. 

Wild believes that AI will continue to aid education, and showcased alive feed of an indoor space replicating the surface of Mars in which an AI avatar – pre-recorded, but appearing ‘as live’ – was introduced to educate the viewer about the planet. This “dream” of his is becoming a reality, the idea being that (previously recorded) “captured experiences” can be used in such a way to make them feel more live, and delivered in real time.

“Users can remember things better if an augmented reality learning experience is built the right way,” he explained. And of course, if an experience feels more live, it is more memorable.”

Back in hall 3, and pushing impressive visuals, Christie debuted its RGB 25,000-lumen pure laser projector at ISE, the M 4K25. The model delivers twice the colour gamut of the original M Series, whilst upping the brightness to 45,000 lumens. Also on show for the very first time in Europe, the Griffyn 4K32 RGB projector offers 360-degree orientation. 

Digital Projection showcased the Satellite Modular Laser System (MLS) imaging solution, which provides the building blocks for complex applications and is developed around WUXGA. The system gives integrators greater freedom by separating the light source from the projector head, whilst also reducing noise – and will also incorporate Digital Projection’s MultiView technology.

On one of the most visually arresting and interesting stands, Absen boasted an incredible real-time virtual production experience, reflecting the increasingly important role that LED-equipped virtual studios are playing in film and TV productions (The Mandalorian being perhaps the most notable – although the new Obi-Wan series is now screening on Disney+) – and again highlighting the growing overlaps between AV and broadcast technology.

Developed with various technology partners, the virtual studio showcased Absen’s solutions for LED on-cam and virtual events, as well as providing a cool stage for panel discussions during the show, with a leafy forest or summery beach virtual backdrop, augmented with physical props. The demonstrations had everyone wowed, and it was clear to attendees just how important the technology is in helping actors to perform in what used to be a dull green screen setting.

“The virtual production stage was a huge talking point, not only for customers meeting with us on the stand, but for our industry friends too!” says Jess Golding, Absen’s European brand and marketing director. “It was great to be able to show people the ecosystem of a stage set up – people want to learn more about the opportunities that VR studios can offer them, so we have made an easy and accessible way for people to engage with every element that makes up the entire ecosystem – it’s been incredibly well received.”

Overall, ISE 2022 was a resounding success, and Barcelona already feels like home. The event is certain to grow and grow into this new venue over the next few years. If we had one criticism, it was – ironically – signage. Long a bugbear at the RAI events, we’d assumed ISE 2022 would be easier to navigate, given its layout – linear New York to the RAI’s jumbled London. 

But whilst it was certainly much easier to move from hall to hall, the lack of floor markings made it tricky to navigate in-hall – to the point of hair-tugging frustration. Just to be able to see what section of the hall (‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C”, etc) would have made our lives so much easier. Or – and we are a tech industry after all! – perhaps the app, with its zoom-in-able map – could be incorporated into a google maps style satellite nav system, allowing show visitors to click on a particular stand and be directed via their smartphone. Food for thought. 

Finally, as one of the only attendees I saw with a physical show badge – as they weren’t obligatory – I wonder if we’ve lost something here? Previously you could simply glance down at someone’s badge for name and job title; now, if they – like the majority at the Fira – are sticking to their smartphone-enabled digital badge, you have to ask. And when you see as many faces as we do at these shows, that can be embarrassing if a name or face escapes you!

Here’s to ISE 2023 – just over 8 months away!