Conferencing Trends from InfoComm 2018
With InfoComm 2018 now firmly in the rear-view mirror, I wanted to take a quick look back before we all turn to the daily challenges that normally occupy our work lives. After returning from a trade show, colleagues often ask the age-old question: "Is there anything special you saw?"
The usual response to this question includes two to three products that are a harbinger of industry trends, a peak into the future rather than something to purchase today and immediately deploy in a project. This year's InfoComm was no different! There were smart displays that are getting smarter, clever and cost-effective communication solutions, and an overall move to simpler, less integrated systems for those spaces many refer to as the "H" word (rhymes with fuddle).
Displays by a variety of manufacturers at the show offered voice transcription as part of their smart services. This seems to be attractive functionality for end users, since no one has to be responsible for taking meeting notes if the device will do it for you. Accuracy will be the metric to keep in mind with these products – at this point none can identify different conferencing participants by voice recognition. So you'll still need to sift through the text to attribute text to the appropriate talker. I expect to see transcription accuracy improve and voice recognition arise as these systems mature. These displays are either all-in-one systems or they can complement a more robust conference system.
More affordable, easier-to-implement USB conference systems were also prevalent at InfoComm this year. This type of product seems to have hit the sweet spot with end users, providing a price point that fits their budgets while offering an expanding feature set that satisfies their conferencing needs. Such systems are often combined with smart displays, creating a very functional conference space often rivaling far more expensive options.
USB video cameras are also deploying more technology these days. Facial detection is becoming more common, as are cameras able to adjust image width to the number of the participants in a conference room. But the ability to create a pre-set width based on who is talking is not quite there yet. Mostly, these devices can determine only how many people are in the room and adjust the image accordingly. The obvious path here is to have camera pre-sets and a camera able to recognize who is speaking at any given moment. In the meantime, there are still other options available to create these camera presets. Currently, you can use systems like those from One Beyond with Shure microphones to create smarter camera preset recall.
All of these new products at InfoComm 2018 speak to ease-of-use and affordability, which correlates to end users having the opportunity to install them in greater numbers than more traditional conferencing products. This is, in my opinion, the largest trend we are currently witnessing in our industry. Simpler spaces, less integrated – but more of them.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one really cool item seen at the show from Arthur Holm: The Barcelona-based company showed off a slick hide-away device for the Shure MXA310 array microphone. It's perfect for the architect who asks, "Can't you just make the microphone go away?" Take a look at the attached video and find out.