Howard Hughes AVator Award for Innovation at InfoComm13

InnovationIf you read my blog on what I was looking for at InfoComm this year, you may remember that I was looking for three Howard Hughes-esque traits in manufacturers or their employees.  Those traits were Courage, Passion, and Innovation.

As I walked the floor, I ran into quite a few Tech Managers for Higher Education.  When I asked them about what was new and exciting, they without fail mentioned one product in particular that they thought would change the face of their installations.



For this reason, the winner of the Howard Hughes AVator Award for Innovation is (drum roll). . .

Solstice by Mersive!

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Solstice here is the Cliff Notes version.  Solstice is a software solution that it allows for real time wireless sharing of multiple device screens through a Windows based PC running Solstice, for display on a large format LCD or projector based screen or screens.  It allows anyone in the conference room or classroom to share the screen of there Windows, iOS, or Android based device to the screen simultaneously.  It provides a cross platform application that acts like a hybrid of AirPlay, MiraCast, and WiDi to share all types of devices to the main screen for presentations and collaboration.  See the InfoComm press release here, (you know how I usually feel about these, but this one is actually good).

Solstice is more than just a small incremental improvement on innovation from 5 years ago.  It goes beyond the increments on increments on increments approach to innovation, (which I define as “x”-crement), that has been so prevalent on the floor the last few years.

I had the pleasure of speaking with the Mersive Team, including CEO Rob Balgley, CTO Dr. Christopher Jaynes, and VP of Marketing Christine Owens, to learn a little about the genesis of this product.

Mersive decided not to start with their existing video scaling and blending platform.  Instead they decided to start with a problem:

How do we create a tool that allows teams to collaborate on site, leveraging the devices they own, without a large array of video switchers, signal converters, and control panels? 

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They secured a grant from the National Science Foundation and started work.  Their mission was to create a method for fast transport of pixel data from multiple cross platform devices to a shared screen using TCP/IP.

The result is a system leverages a commodity PC, (not a specialized machine), running the Solstice software.  Each connecting device needs the Solstice client app as well to connect.  The number of connections is only limited by switch bandwidth, meaning a 100GB switch could handle up to 50-60 devices at once, depending on the content being shared.  Since the streams are aware of one another, they also can adapt as more users share data to maximize quality.

There are two modes.  The first one is “Round Table” that allows for equal admin rights for all participants, like in a C-Level briefing.  The other is Podium Mode, which gives one person some admin rights and generates “requests” to share data from other devices and a thumbnail preview. ( I can see being EXTREMELY important in avoiding student initiated high jinx in Higher Ed.)

One final feature that makes Solstice extremely flexible is that it also supports a video capture card.  This means an Apple TV, Document Camera, or Codec based VTC system could be shared on the Solstice platform as well, without having to engage in application switching or screen splitting.

The system can work over a wireless or wired network, so it could be used in military facilities on their secure networks, (given their software client gets certified).

As a former integrator that worked on Higher Ed, Military, and Municipal AV system designs, the possibilities for Solstice in the market are huge.  The system is great for small conference rooms, classrooms, city council chambers, or even some military planning rooms, etc.

For creating a true cross-platform collaboration tool, I award Mersive’s Solstice my Howard Hughes AVator Award for Innovation.