By Greg Bronson, CTS-D
Just try and find a June ProAV publication that doesn’t talk about Infocomm 2010. Not to mention actually being there (or lamenting the decision to not be) yourself! Whether a “newbie,” or seasoned attendee, if you’re seeking communication on products that communicate; Infocomm’s show provided no shortage of news to consume. And, for good reason — there is much to be aware of (too much?) in this ever-evolving industry, all of which leads to the AV Club to wonder — both excitedly and exasperatedly — what next?
Going out on a limb (just outside the AV Club house, mind you), it’s fair to say everyone reading this article has a great interest in AV technology. And, by the very nature of dealing with technology, we’re also tolerant, even expectant, of evolution and change. But as the old adage says, is it just “change for the sake of change” or real advancement with application to a specific need? Said another way, new technology is not necessarily analogous to good technology. Cool, maybe… but is it good?
Here are some summary observations of trends that appear to be on the move, as observed at Infocomm 2010. Take them for what they’re worth, especially if they compare reasonably with your own experience and what you feel is needed.
Pre-show press included plenty of expectation around 3D. While the consumer AV market continues to push 3D, the jury is out on what’s next for 3D in ProAV for the education market. Interesting enough (and not at all surprising) almost every 3D demo I saw seemed to use consumer market 3D content. Instead of 3D rotating molecules or a 3D CAD model fly-through there were 3D golfers, 3D concerts and 3D animated feature films. A person watching the golfing footage was overheard saying “… actually, it looks like layers of 2D, not really 3D.” Agreed. But, from a “cool” techie stand-point, it was an undoubtedly sharp image and could also have been described as giving a sense of actually being there on the back nine. Looking around at all the other “four eyes” watching, though, it’s also hard to image classroom after classroom of students donning 3D glasses, let alone technology managers supplying and maintaining them. Ultimately, it stands to reason what’s next is better niche 3D classroom setups; easier and more practical to fit-out in the near term thanks to the resurgence in development of this technology.
While not really 3D (and not requiring glasses), there were a couple variations on a pseudo holographic type display. Applications include videoconferencing and one (TelePresenceTech) fitted a virtual presenter “standing” at a physical podium. While seemingly still in the “if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it” category, this is pretty cool and may evolve further. What’s next may approach affordability when compared to cost and logistics of getting VIPs cloned to be “live” in front of a distributed audience.
How about what’s next for GreenAV? As evidenced by being one of Infocomm’s largest and most active social networking SIG topics, it’s clear this industry has some momentum to make advancements in this area. This is good. There are at least two fronts AV can make a difference — reducing how much energy our gear sucks up and the even greater potential for providing technology that minimizes how much energy is consumed via less efficient communication alternatives (e.g., videoconferencing vs. travel or digital signage vs. print media). Thanks to strong leadership by a smaller subset of individuals, multiple efforts have been advanced ,especially diving into the ENERGY STAR program for application to ProAV and trying multiple approaches to get on the LEED credit system. Unfortunately, it seems the LEED folks didn’t see AV credits as a priority (which is a head scratcher). Undaunted, Infocomm has rolled out their own program, STEP (Sustainable Technology Environments PerformanceSM).
With control systems at the heart of ProAV, it’s no surprise to see many choices now being offered not only by the “big three” manufacturers but by upstarts and other manufacturers moving laterally into the control arena. This is good as it should help get a room touch panel control system at an even lower price point. I do have to wonder though, what’s next, when some of the biggest booth splashes seemed to be made in terms of highlighting giveaways and/or that “we have Apps…” for a computer manufacturer’s product (the iPad, by Apple). White flag?
And a nod to the consortia of manufacturers working on AVB (Audio Video Bridging network standard). There seems to be many flashing arrows pointing the industry to move all AV signals to the IP network. To do so means addressing myriad issues, many unique to ensuring high performing audio video and control. A good deal of thought to what’s required has gone into this; hopefully what’s next is more manufacturers jumping in and AVB based systems starting to get implemented.
In closing, a show like Infocomm (let alone having Las Vegas as a backdrop) is driven by trends and “buzz.” While this can become tiresome, you’d have to be a zombie to not get sucked in and appreciate all the innovation. However, in applications for education the AV Club tries to sort through what’s needed in the near term, what is just plain cool, and what’s next over the long haul.
The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors’ employer(s), past or present.
Greg Bronson, CTS-D, applies AV technologies in the development of innovative learning spaces for higher education. Greg spent the first 10 years of his career as AV technician and service manager, with the past 12+ years as an AV system designer and project manager. Bronson currently works for Cornell University and has also worked for two SUNY (State University of New York) campuses as well as a regional secondary education service depot. Bronson is the originator of concept for Infocomm’s Dashboard for Controls and has had completed projects featured in industry publications. You can reach Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Open Source… Classroom Control Systems?
By Scott Tiner, CTS
In early May, I attended a conference on managing classroom technology. A group from Wesleyan University presented what they are calling RoomTrol. It is a control system that they have developed in-house with student programming. The system has a web (Java) interface, and you can use any touch panel with a USB connection. The control system is a mini-computer (like a Mac Mini, but a PC) and is running Linux. For RS-232 ports and IR ports, they use USB-RS232 or USB-IR conversion cables. The input from the touch panel to the "control system" is USB. The group reported that the entire "control system" and touch panel cost them under $1,000. That is a significant savings from what we are used to. If you buy a similar product commercially, you are going to spend around $5,000 for a control system and touch panel. Also, they are using the switching functions built into their projector. So they have no need for other switchers, again, saving more money. They have had this system in pilot mode for one year in a room, and over the summer plan to deploy it to three spaces. This initial deploy will cost $12,000 less than other installs.
You may be interested to know that this University has a very interesting system of supporting rooms. In fact, all the support is done by student staff. The entire design and programming for this new system has also been done by students. So, here again they are saving money by not having their professional staff creating this system.
I was excited at the potential cost saving, but was left wondering if they really know what they are getting themselves into. Obviously, someone is writing the drivers for this system. What do they do every time they have a different model projector, LCD panel or IR device? How much time is spent writing the modules for these? And, even with student labor, is it worth the savings? What about when things simply don't work? Do they have the time to do the troubleshooting on a home grown system? Finally, what about all the things that professional systems provide that this system does not? In my programming, I use video sync info from the processor, I use touch panel activity indicators and all type of other useful tools that are provided to me. How much time would it take to have someone program all of this? Finally, I will be the first to admit that when all heck breaks loose, I like having someone (a company) to point a finger at. Who does the finger get pointed at when you created the system yourself?
When I thought more about this on my four-hour drive home, I began to wonder if I just saw the first ripple in a tidal wave coming at the A/V industry. What Wesleyan is really doing is creating open source control systems. Is there a future in this? Would having support networks in place, like those that exist for Moodle, Sakai and other open source applications answer my concerns? Certainly, the questions I have posed are the exact questions my school (and many, many others) have asked and answered before switching from a commercial product, like BlackBoard, to an open source one, like Moodle.
As you wander around tradeshows this year and marvel at all the very expensive equipment, keep this in the back of your mind. Is it possible that in five years a system like the one Wesleyan is building could be common place in our "hang and bang" classrooms? Or, is this a project that works very well for one institution, but will not be easy to replicate at others?
Scott Tiner, CTS, has worked in the AV/IT field in public K-12, private K-12 and higher education institutions. As a trained educator he has a deep interest in the use of various types of technology in the classroom. Currently, as the Manager of Digital Media and Event Support at Bates College, Scott designs the technology for learning spaces and works with faculty on innovative ways to use technology in these learning spaces. He also is responsible for the digital video and audio editing support on campus. He can be reached via email@example.com or http:// www.twitter.com/stiner on Twitter.
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The Future of the Classroom
By Bob Snyder
Editor, rAVe EUROPE
George Kembel, cofounder and executive director of Stanford University's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, says publicly, "Our education system is not broken, but it is becoming obsolete. We're still running an educational model developed for the industrial revolution, designed to prepare workers for factory jobs."
He may be right. Today's classrooms feature professors or teachers sharing what they know by lectures. Is this really the way to produce the next generation of innovators?
In 2020, Kembel says we will see an end to the classroom as we know it. The single professor standing in front of the class will be replaced by a team… coaches from different fields that amplify subjects. Simple lectures will be replaced by "messy real-world challenges." Instead hanging in lecture halls, students will work in collaborative spaces, where future professionals learn to integrate their different approaches to problem-solving. Think of social networking as a model as then stretch it to how people will innovate together.
At Kemble's Stanford's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, students from engineering, medicine, business, law and the arts come together to tackle real-world projects. They've worked on everything from reinventing the morning radio experience for a century-old station in New York City to helping JetBlue serve customers during massive weather delays.
Students get closer to end users who will be using their solutions and learn to collaborate with teammates with different problem-solving approaches. Maybe it seems all too vocational, but Kemble thinks they will learn a methodology that equips them to tackle complex challenges outside the classroom.
He talks about the learning experience you can't get in a traditional classroom and argues this shift toward hands-on experiences is happening far beyond universities.
His main point: Children enter school with innate creativity but rarely leave that way. He cites a British researcher, who studied 1600 children between the ages of 3 and 5 on their ability to think divergently. 98 percent scored genius level. Ten years later the same children only scored 10 percent at genius level.
Schools around the world will move aggressively to rethink their memorize-and-test approach, says Kemble. They will have to in order to produce innovators who can continually produce great ideas and turn them into reality again and again. In an era of global competition, these shifts in education will be key to developing the next generation of leaders.
Kemble doesn't go there but one part of the process that is apparent is the vested interest of governments and large corporations. Both control the money that goes into education and each wants to insure they get students who can go on to create innovation and bring in the money. Will lofty academics and their ivory towers fall soon, pulled into the real world by necessity and greed. Or maybe just "business schools" like Kemble's.
Building an educational system where the technology goes hand-in-hand with changing how students of all ages learn…in an age where internet has changed the way Digital Natives think and cooperate…is important to all stakeholders. The sellers of technology have an important role that goes beyond selling hardware and into selling educational solutions. Think of Education-as-a-Service.
Bob Snyder is the editor of rAVe Europe. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Wow, What an InfoComm!
By Gary Kayye, CTS
I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to be at an InfoComm as I was last week. The anticipation about this year’s show started building after attending the February DSE [Digital Signage Expo] as that was such a successful show in Vegas. The affirmation point for the success of InfoComm 2010, for me, came when we launched THE GAME at 10 am in the Christie Digital booth and there were a few hundred extra folks there playing the game trying to win rAVe t-shirts and Apple iPads – our first-day game was “capture the flag” and we hid a red rAVe shirt in five different booths across the show floor and Tweeted clues to find them – the winners got iPads and a couple thousand people walked away with rAVe “Save the Trees” t-shirts. Check out our first THE GAME winner video here.
But, it’s wasn’t just THE GAME that had me excited, the floor was packed with over 32,000 attendees, more than 10 percent higher attendance than 2009 and nearly back to pre-recession numbers. In addition, there were a plethora of new products and technologies at this year’s InfoComm 2010 – something that we hadn’t seen in a few years at the show. The biggest trend at the show? Well, there is a CLEAR path and movement towards putting everything on the network. Extron, ClearOne, Crestron, AMX, WOW Vision, the entire digital signage market and, heck, even mount manufacturers have networkable solutions now! It’s about time!
And, 3D everywhere! I counted more than 50 booths showing 3D content – 50. OK, OK, most of it was hype and stuff that had nothing to do with the ProAV market, but some did! I was impressed at the integration of 3D into digital signage applications and, of course, there were a few cool 3D videoconferencing companies out there. Will 3D make it in ProAV? Only time will tell.
Finally, in case you didn’t make it to the show, rAVe shot over 470 videos on the show floor – all of new products that debuted at InfoComm 2010. If you’re interested in watching them, go to: https://www.ravepubs.com/index.php?option=com_ravevideo&view=single&Itemid=330
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SMART Technologies Officially Files IPO
SMART Technologies, a provider of interactive whiteboards, announced that it has filed a registration statement and preliminary prosepectus with the SEC for an initial public offering (IPO) in both the United States and Canada. We first reported we thought a SMART IPO was imminent during InfoComm 2009 after SMART CEO Nancy Knowlton hinted at it during their press conference. It's been a busy year for SMART, who recently announced they will acquire NextWindow — a company they were suing a year prior to that for patent infringement. See below the press release regarding the IPO in full.
SMART Technologies Files for Proposed Initial Public Offering
SMART Technologies Inc., a global provider of interactive whiteboards, today announced that it has filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and a preliminary prospectus in each of the provinces and territories of Canada relating to a proposed initial public offering of its Class A Subordinate Voting Shares in the United States and Canada. The number of shares to be offered and the price range for the offering have not yet been determined. Upon completion of the offering, the Class A Subordinate Voting Shares will be dual listed, trading under the symbol SMT on NASDAQ and SMA on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank Securities and RBC Capital Markets will act as joint senior bookrunners for the offering. BofA Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse will act as junior bookrunners. CIBC, Cowen and Company, Piper Jaffray and Thomas Weisel Partners will act as co-managers.
A registration statement relating to these securities has been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, but has not yet become effective. These securities may not be sold, nor may offers to buy be accepted prior to the time the registration statement becomes effective. This media release shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor may there be any sale of these securities in any state or jurisdiction in which such an offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such state or jurisdiction.
A preliminary prospectus containing important information relating to these securities has been filed with securities commissions or similar authorities in each of the jurisdictions of Canada. The preliminary prospectus is still subject to completion or amendment. Copies of the Canadian preliminary prospectus may be obtained from the underwriters at the addresses set out below. There will not be any sale or any acceptance of an offer to buy the securities until a receipt for the final prospectus has been issued.
The offering will be made only by means of a prospectus. When available, a copy of the U.S. preliminary prospectus for the offering can be obtained from Morgan Stanley, Attention: Prospectus Department, 180 Varick Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10014 or telephone: 1.866.718.1649; from Deutsche Bank Securities, Attention: Prospectus Department, 100 Plaza One, Jersey City, NJ 07311 or telephone: 1.800.503.4611; or from RBC Capital Markets, Attention: Prospectus Department, Three World Financial Center, 200 Vesey Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10281-8098 or telephone 877.822.4089; and a copy of the Canadian preliminary prospectus for the offering can be obtained from www.sedar.com.
Founded in 1987, SMART Technologies is a global provider of interactive whiteboards and complementary solutions to education, business and government sectors.
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Extron's Universal TP Transmitter for Digital and Analog Signals Ships
Extron announced the immediate availability of the MTP/HDMI U T A D, a Decora-style, universal twisted pair transmitter for digital and analog video sources. Dedicated inputs on the MTP/HDMI U T A D accommodate digital and analog video, audio, and bidirectional RS-232 or IR signals and the signals are transmitted long distances over CAT 5-type cabling to remote receiver locations.
Unlike many other long-range twisted pair products, Extron’s includes an HDMI transmitter that’s HDCP-compliant and enables HDMI signals to be carried over distances significantly greater than the lengths of standard HDMI cables. The HDMI input supports data rates up to 6.75 Gbps for HDMI 1.3 Deep Color, Lip Sync, and HD lossless audio. The analog inputs offer dedicated VGA, HD component video, S-video, composite video, and audio inputs for sending a wide variety of video signals along with summed mono audio signals over one Cat5 cable.
For complete specs, go to: http://www.extron.com/product/product.aspx?id=tphdutad&s=0
These types of hybrid (analog and digital) products are the new reality. It’s anyone’s guess how long it will take to go full digital. However, in education, we’re well versed on supporting “legacy” technologies for the real end user.
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Dukane Intros Short-Throw Projector
Following up last month’s launch of the world’s ugliest (but impressively spec'd) document camera, Dukane’s showing one of the world’s ugliest projectors in the new 8103H – a 3000 lumen, 1024×726, LCD-based short-throw lens projector. Designed for classroom installs, the 8103 actually has nice specs (sans the 7-watt speaker), but in a cabinet that looks to be designed circa 1993.
To see the specs for yourself, go to: http://www.dukane.com/av/products/Item_dvProjectors.asp?Model=8103H
Actually, having not seen this myself, there may be a positive spin on “ugly," if it’s less appealing to a would be thief!
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Epson Debuts 4000-Lumen Projector for Under $1000
Last week at InfoComm 2010, they debuted a supposedly 4000-lumen, XGA (1024×768) resolution, 3LCD projector that they are selling for just under $1000. Dubbed the VS400, EPSON also says it’s “green” in that it uses 25 percent less energy per lumen than DLP projectors of the same light output and they claim it’s due to Epson’s E-TORL lamp technology that manages light output over time – allowing the lamp to last more than 3500 hours.
The new VS400 isn’t on their website yet, but when it is, we are told it will be here: http://www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/ProductCategory.jsp?BV_UseBVCookie=yes&oid=-15942&page=all
Pretty amazing how projectors have improved while prices continue to drop; guess that’s what supply and demand does for ‘ya.
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Premier Mounts Shows Short Throw Projector Mount with Embedded Speakers
The new UNI-STA+Audio is Premier’s new universal short throw projector mount with built-in speakers, cable routing and even an integrated 50-watt amplifier. Shown at InfoComm 2010 for the first time, the UNI-STA+Audio extends from the wall 7”-27”, supports projectors weighing up to 50 pounds, accommodates a wall-mounted Mac-Mini or small PC and can mount to one stud in the wall.
Here’s a rAVe NOW Video we shot on it at InfoComm 2010 last week: https://www.ravepubs.com/index.php?option=com_ravevideo&view=ravevideo&ravevideo_id=1103
For complete specs, go here: http://www.premiermounts.com/product.asp?partid=1847
So, a “resourceful” tech manager might try this kind of thing with spare parts from the last rack build, PC speakers and wire ties… and never lives it down. But a manufacturer does it and… (I'm joking folks — no offense to resourceful tech managers or the ingenuity at Premier!)
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Sound-Craft Systems Expands Educator Series of Workstations
Aimed at the education market, Sound-Craft Systems has added the WSV-35 and WSV-45 podium/workstations to their line – adding a locking document camera drawer in place of the folding document camera shelf standard on the WSV-30 and WSV-40.
The new models offer the same compact dimensions as the WSV-30 and WSV-40, with a width of 30” and 40”, respectively, and a common height and depth of 41.5” and 27” on both models. A keyboard tray, locking doors and front access panel, cable access ports, and 3” casters are standard. The interior is partitioned into a CPU tower bay and an equipment bay that can be equipped with either adjustable shelving or 16RU rack rails as options. The WSV-45 also includes a locking accessory drawer. Both are quality constructed of premium oak veneer on an MDF substrate and offered in natural oak, dark stained oak, dark cherry stained oak, or black lacquer on as standards. Other veneers and finishes are available at extra cost.
You can see all the details at: http://www.sound-craft.com/
Podium/workstation, lectern/teaching station, what ever you call ‘em, seems Sound-Craft really has expanded their offering in this area.
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Sanyo Intros Two Short-Throw 3D Projectors
This month, Sanyo announced the introduction of two new ultra short-focus projectors with built-in 3D capability. Both projectors feature Sanyo’s compact chassis of about half the size of most other brands’ short-focus projectors. The PDG-DWL2500 is WXGA resolution (1280×800; 16:10 aspect ratio) with 2,500 lumens of brightness. The PDG-DXL2000 is XGA resolution (1024×768; 4:3 aspect ratio), producing 2,000 lumens. Scheduled for release in July 2010, the PDG-DWL2500 has an MSRP of $1,995, and the PDG-DXL2000 has an MSRP of $1,795.
The two projectors are so new they aren’t on Sanyo’s website yet, but you can see their press release here: http://us.sanyo.com:80/News/SANYO-INTRODUCES-TWO-ULTRA-SHORT-FOCUS-3D-READY-PROJECTORS
I'll have to follow the link and read up on these as it's not clear to me what makes them 3D capable (i.e., do they do double stack for passive or have extra high scan rate for active, etc.?).
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Extron DXP Digital Matrix Switcher for HDMI Routing
The ProAV Market finally has a truly 100 percent HDCP key-compliant HDMI matrix switcher!
The Extron DXP HDMI Series are high-performance digital matrix switchers that route HDMI signals from multiple sources to any or all of up to eight HDMI-equipped display devices. These HDMI 1.3 compatible matrix switchers support resolutions up to 1920×1200 and HDTV 1080p/60, and are HDCP-compliant, enabling simultaneous distribution of a single source signal to one or more compliant displays.
Available in sizes of 4×4, 4×8, 8×4, and 8×8, the DXP HDMI Series is designed for ease of integration in applications that require reliable HDMI signal routing.
They include several convenience features common to Extron matrix switchers such as the QS-FPC- QuickSwitch Front Panel Controller, global presets, IP Link Ethernet control, and more.
Watch the rAVe NOW Video we shot of it at InfoComm here: https://www.ravepubs.com/index.php?option=com_ravevideo&view=ravevideo&ravevideo_id=1080
For complete specs, go here: http://www.extron.com/product/product.aspx?id=dxphdmi
Cool (and good)!
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Well, that's it for this edition of rAVe! Thank you for spending time with us as we muse the industry's happenings. To continue getting my newsletter, or to sign up a friend, click the link below. To send feedback, don't reply to this newsletter – instead, write to Contributing Editor Greg Bronson at email@example.com, Publisher Gary Kayye at firstname.lastname@example.org or Editor-in-Chief Sara Abrons at email@example.com
A little about Gary Kayye, CTS, founder of rAVe and Kayye Consulting. Gary Kayye, an audiovisual veteran and columnist, began the widely-read KNews, a premier industry newsletter, in the late 1990s, and created the model for and was co-founder of AV Avenue – which later became InfoComm IQ. Kayye Consulting is a company that is committed to furthering the interests and success of dealers, manufacturers, and other companies within the professional audiovisual industry.
rAVe Pro Edition launched in February 2003. rAVe Home Edition, co-sponsored by CEDIA, launched in February 2004. rAVe Rental [and Staging] launched in November 2007. rAVe Ed [Education] began publication in May 2008.
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