Audio/visual equipment has morphed from being equipment attached to a room into a critical path component with great influence on an office space’s design. This blog will provide valuable insight that IT firms, architects, commercial furniture vendors, and interior designers need to understand about the changes in the way that companies are using office space. We interviewed Peter Nostrand of RBC Cable and got his take on video conferencing, Interactive Boards, and more.
Q: Peter, your company does a great deal of video/web conferencing business. Tell us what the most misunderstood thing is for end users of this product.
A: This is a huge trend we’re seeing in our business as remote work has made videoconferencing technologies become highly demanded.
There seems to be a great deal of confusion from end users on the type of video equipment to use for particular size groups. You can’t use a personal videoconference set up for up to 10-11 people. Even IT people are surprised to hear this.
The reason is that the camera built into a laptop of typical personal webcam doesn’t zoom in far enough to render one view of the room. The point of videoconferencing is to make the conversation personalized, but if you are using equipment designed for a smaller audience then you can’t even see the expression on people’s faces. You also get problems with lighting and the pictures get blurred out.
It’s a similar problem for the acoustics. People hear background noise and many people talking at the same time but there’s very little audio clarity when the wrong equipment is used.
Q: What are you seeing in terms of how people are using rooms differently?
A: Other than for educational settings, it’s unclear what the future of stand-up style presentations will be anyways. A great deal of collaboration is happening in “huddle” areas where people sit around a table with iPads to follow what is being presented. Attention spans are shorter and it’s easy for people to get distracted by their portable electronic devices. In fact, we’ve even seen companies give the quarterly presentations on iPads.
We’re probably going to see less of the traditional presentation where people stand up in front of a group and talk.
Q: So what does this mean for Interactive Whiteboards?
A: Boards are impacted by this trend and also by adoption trends. Clients are not using all the features and not really getting the most out of all they have to offer. For example, they like to write something and then save it so they can email it, but that’s as far as it tends to go. It seems like people aren’t really sure how to use them. That’s why we always ask, “What are you looking to do with the Board?”
Microsoft Surface, Google Jamboard, and Cisco Spark Board have a great deal of marketing dollars behind them though and it’s likely we’re going to see a big push in terms of promotion to get their adoption levels up.
Q: How is the role of Audio/Visual technology changing in terms of your role in the design of office space?
A: It used to be that A/V equipment was seen as something that was easily attachable and only necessary to discuss after the room had been designed. Nowadays it’s a different ballgame where A/V is becoming much more of a critical path item that impacts the engineering design of the office space. Take the following example.
Let’s say you are looking to set up a rear projection device (in other words, a projector behind a screen). You actually would need a room behind the screen to house this equipment. Sometimes it can be for the massive cooling requirements that these pieces tend to have, sometimes for other technical reasons. If the A/V firm gets called in too late, creating a room after the fact wouldn’t be possible. So A/V is taking a much more primary role on the design team which can sometimes be a bit unanticipated.
It’s been particularly helpful to get involved early for the architects who want to get what they need and move the project along. Many of them are hesitant to work with designs that will slow down the construction of the space, so open communication from the start is something they greatly welcome.
Q: In conclusion, what would you say are the two major A/V trends you expect to materialize in the next 6-12 months?
A: There is major change on the horizon when it comes to PC-based web conferencing expanding as a full room solution, not one to one. Solutions like Zoom and Skype are catching on with corporate users who, much as I mentioned above, want the higher quality rendering so that the meeting happens as smoothly as possible and team engagement can be maximized.
The other trend is the Interactive Whiteboards. As I mentioned, the big players have voted with their dollars and the marketing push we’re seeing is likely going to result in higher adoption than at present.
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