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Opinion: the integration of everything

ISE is the ultimate unifying playing field, says Rob Lane.

With ISE almost upon us, it’s a good opportunity to speculate on what pro-AV technology and solutions we’re likely to see at the now four-day event, and to reflect upon how much of what’s exhibited is informed by industry demand and expectation.

Installation publisher NewBay Media runs its Best of Show Awards programme at every ISE, recognising new and outstanding products exhibited, but while I’m at the show I’ll be looking at the bigger picture too: how exhibition stands are representative of what’s going on in the industry for the other 360 or so days of the year.

Last month I discussed how evolutions in retail are influencing digital signage, with LED growing in popularity (including curved displays), 4K becoming ubiquitous, more sophisticated kiosks, larger media walls, touch technology, zero-bezel weather, vandal-protected touch monitors and SoC making more of an impact. And with visual technology always tending to dominate at ISE, I expect a raft of display-heavy exhibits to excite retail integrators – along with mounting solutions intended to solve many of the issues surrounding the retail revolution (larger, heavier screens; transparent displays, etc), from the likes of Unicol and Peerless.

Projection will also feature heavily in Amsterdam. New 20,000-hour laser projection lifespans and excellent colour reproduction are allowing retailers and others to benefit anew from projection’s advantages, including larger images sizes and access to in-store areas, which may not be appropriate to displays. Experiential opportunities including pixel mapping, edge blending, geometric projection techniques and floor advertising are set to tempt end users and installers – and not just in the retail space.

VR and its close sibling AR are sure to have a bigger part to play in the coming months and years, especially as Oculus Rift developers come up with new uses, and perhaps more so when Microsoft’s HoloLens finally drops – particularly as it brings VR and AR together in such an exciting way. Don’t be surprised to see VR goggles everywhere at the RAI this year – event and retail integrators in particular should take note.

We might also expect to see one or two ‘virtual changing room’ solutions, employing VR to virtually clothe shoppers, perhaps with gesture interaction to aid decision-making. In 2014, the Fashion3D solution featured at the RAI, allowing attendees to stand in front of a display that mimics a full-length mirror, while AR software overlaid their image with realistic 3D renders of clothing and other items.

There’s sure to be the usual Pepper’s Ghost display boxes, from the likes of Realfiction, but the larger holographic-style, stage event solutions – such as that offered by Holo-Gauze – are much more difficult to showcase in exhibition conditions (although the company is considering exhibiting in 2017).

We’re all used to seeing floor projection, and it would be a surprise if there weren’t one or two at ISE 2016, however we’re unlikely to see solutions like FogScreen Projection or indeed much in the way of projection mapping – although UK-based Projection Artworks’ retail-focused DisplayMapper is one of a few mapping technologies that would demonstrate well at show, were they exhibiting.

Perhaps the main challenge for ISE exhibitors – at least to those for whom it matters – is how to exhibit corporate AV solutions (outside of merely demonstrating the display tech; we all know how important big-screens and interactive walls, for instance, have become for corporate installations). Will VC feature at the event? Well, certainly Oblong is exhibiting, so we can expect to see some sort of demonstration of the company’s Mezzanine solution. VC experts Polycom and AVI-SPL are also in attendance, so VC will feature on their stands too. If Microsoft’s Surface Hub is available in time for the show it’ll have to be showcased by a distribution partner, as Microsoft haven’t taken a stand. Some partners are exhibiting – Crestron and AVI-SPL, for example – and TD Maverick is hosting regular Surface Hub demos.

Somebody who could probably predict all of the above better than me, as well as what’s set to feature at the next five ISE events, is Dr Michio Kaku – tasked with giving Friday’s closing keynote speech. One of the world’s leading scientific figures, with unparalleled skills in predicting trends affecting business, commerce and finance, Kaku is also a recognised expert in Einstein��s unified field theory. Sometimes called the Theory of Everything, proponents hope to bring all physics theories together in order to explain the nature and behaviour of all matter and energy. I’m sure many AV integrators would wish for something similar: a means of combining all of today’s leading technologies into one huge, compatible and interchangeable shopping basket of systems and solutions. Essentially what ISE looks to achieve every year.