Posted: By Andy Marken 12.03.20
AI, Personal Touch—AI technology can significantly advance AV and Pro AV solutions as long as they constantly have the human touch.
At the end of last year, the more cautious industry analysts were recommending that Pro AV folks (hardware/software/integration/service) diversify into “more economically insensitive market segments” to ride out the economic downturn they saw coming.
That sounds like a logical recommendation—go where life is constantly good and easy.
The big problem is it’s tough to find a market that is economically insensitive; and if you find it, you can bet someone else found it as well. Especially, since the global pandemic changed the global landscape for everyone! But, there is a glimmer of positivity for the Pro AV industry in the Asia-Pacific area.
The Asia-Pacific area was the first to be impacted by COVID-19 and learned how to limit, minimize, and hopefully eliminate COVID-19. The Asia-Pacific area has also been the first to reopen its new economy.
According to AVIXA (The Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association), APAC is projected to have the strongest growth of all regions for the global professional AV industry, with a 7.4% CAGR from 2020 through 2025, compared to 4.7% for the Americas and 4.5% for EMEA.
In 2025, APAC Pro AV revenue will amount to $126 billion, compared to $108 billion for the Americas and $81 billion for EMEA.
Regarding the bridging effect of Pro AV’s video conferencing, Allan McLennan, Chief Executive of PADEM Media Group, noted, “The pandemic forced countries, companies, and individuals to rethink/reinvent the way we interact and work together. Thanks to the rudimentary use of AI to support and enhance AV products, it kept things moving relatively smoothly and it has now become an integral part of day-to-day business and personal activity.”
The best example of what will drive the shift is enhanced communications/connectivity—video conferencing.
For most of 2020, that meant the consumer/professional level web/video communications tools—Adobe Connect, MS Teams, BlueJeans, Google Meet, WebEx, and others.
After multiple frustrating sessions, it became apparent that video conferencing will become a valuable personal and professional tool.
Workflow—Video conferencing has gone from being nice to have to becoming a business necessity during the pandemic lockdown. Most were “okay,” but they were a long way from being professional or ultra-effective—which they might have been, had they been coordinated by people with real AV experience.
We (and probably you, as well) now participate in 2–3 video conferences, virtual conventions, meetings where the smartest person knows how to develop, coordinate, and run the event, but everyone else suffers through 1–3 hours of internet connection challenges. Hopefully, they still get the right message and information.
But even as life returns to a new normal, we’ve found that face-to-face and virtual events don’t really conflict but, in many ways, can actually enhance the outcome for all concerned.
The pandemic turned the spotlight on the importance of both AI and AV technologies in general and the value of Pro AV in almost every sector—hospitality, education, retail, government, healthcare, entertainment, etc.
2019/2020 showed what broadcast, integration, and business professionals have said for a long time…video events/communications are important to commerce, but they are also difficult to conduct smoothly and effectively.
As a result, the integration of AI is becoming a natural part of the AV solutions.
Artificial intelligence won’t come even close to the human mind’s capabilities for years. But in 20–30 years, the sympathy, empathy, rationalized thinking, and, yes, intelligence we see in movies might get closer to reality. AI will become more intuitive and may start to feel “natural.”
It is a goal to work toward.
Much like the humans, we are modeling AI after, it is going through growth stages. Right now, it can be considered in its infancy/preteen phase.
Consumer-based AI solutions like Siri and Alexa are early examples of issues that were recognized and addressed with advances that reflected the views, opinions, and biases of its developers.
Considerable progress has already been made in recognizing and catering to a diverse audience with a multitude of interests and nullifying division/polarization between individuals and groups.
Some of the first we’ve seen have been very good and economic target of opportunity solutions that take excellent advantage of AI’s ability to quickly, easily, and accurately handle routine/repetitive activities over and over again without getting tired, bored, or sloppy in their “job.”
Interactive Signage—Voice-activated signage is quickly becoming a part of people’s everyday life. Even two-year-olds have been known to walk up and ask questions.
An example of the right solution at the right time has been voice-controlled/interactive signage like BrightSign’s BrightVoice that provides the user with an easy-to-use, hands-free interactive experience that is becoming increasingly important with interactive digital signage and other non-touch applications.
The solutions “listen” to the user with intelligent speech-to-text decoding to provide an accurate natural voice response or on-screen response, if requested.
Extremely versatile in handling routine and increasingly complex tasks, voice solutions can initiate content, music, or lighting responses, making it ideal for self-guided or limited contact uses for retail, restaurant, gym, entertainment, or similar venues.
Quick Check—EonDigital streamlines temperature monitoring activities for people entering any facility. It’s one of hundreds of AI-enabled AV solutions introduced in the past six months.
A solution that’s great for continually and accurately handling a rather mundane but necessary task involved BrightSign partnering with EonDigital in their ExoMetrics solution. Just as businesses, film production, theaters, museums, schools, and facilities globally began to slowly reopen, there has been a need to temperature check individuals.
Having people with a digital thermometer perform the check is susceptible to the fallibility of the readers but with the EonDigital, the individual simply passes his/her wrist under the unit’s monitoring head and knows instantly that they’re good to go … or not.
The touch-free temperature screening unit can safely and accurately conduct hundreds of temperature checks and instantly report issues before the individual enters the facility. The high-speed measurement/analysis software also ensures the elimination of false positive readings.
In the past year, Pro AV hardware/software specialists have developed hundreds of stand-alone and networked AI-enabled solutions to handle routine and/or risk-potential tasks to help organizations and individuals return to a new normal.
AI’s ability to efficiently and effectively personalize Pro AV systems will be an important aspect of the industry’s profitable growth.
“AI has become a vital part of the AV industry and most notably in the broadcast and media industry especially in the editing and media management areas with remote services from responsive companies such as EditShare, Dalet and Teradici,” McLennan noted. “Interestingly, these advances have given the Pro AV a boost in cataloging, metadata detection, and a generation of meaningful data management efficiencies of the media as well as intelligence gained from the viewer.”
“Enriching and redefining entertainment, education, collaboration, AI and AV have quickly evolved from nice-to-have solutions into strategic assets for businesses and institutions,” he added.
One of the best ways to illustrate how AI and AV are seamlessly blending with daily activity is to see how they will be part of our day-to-day office activities.
Tomorrow’s AI/AV office environment
Anand Sanwal, president of start-up/VC tracker CB Insights, recently published an overview report on the tech-enabled office in the post-COVID World. The report illustrates that it’s not a matter of where AI/AV technology will be used but rather how do we function without it.
From touchless, temperature-monitored building entry to voice/facial-activated operations to remote collaboration tools, businesses, retail operations, and hospitality venues will seamlessly integrate AI/AV into everyday environments. They will quickly become the seeing/unseen functions that are unobtrusively there to enable, assist, and protect us. Industries that are implementing solutions for tomorrow are hospitality/transportation which are investing today, recognizing that it will take time for business to return to “normal.”
Hotels are adding touchless locks and room amenities. To encourage and accommodate the backbone of their operations, they are adding video conferencing capabilities in rooms so guests can stay in touch with associates around the globe.
Travel Will Return—Hospitality and air transportation aren’t anticipating a mad rush for people to travel immediately; but when they are, companies like Delta Airlines will make check-in fast, easy, and safe for people.
One of the best examples of AI/AV integration has been Delta Airlines, which, back in 2019, unveiled the first US biometric terminal using automatic check-in, facial recognition, and RFID bag tracking. The company even installed large direct-view LED signage that gives the viewer current status information on his/her flight that only the individual can see. It didn’t change your wait time, but you felt better when they recognized you as you.
Quick Check-In—AI-enabled facial recognition solutions can not only speed people through the entire flight check-in process but they can also do it more accurately. The key is personal privacy.
Facial recognition/identification is being deployed in airports around the globe to reduce/eliminate the need to have humans view passports and check the images and the face of the person preparing for the flight. When combined with new safety and health processes and procedures, the AI-enabled AV solutions make it faster, easier, and more stress-free for people to return to air travel.
More than 10 years ago, we saw the prototype of a retail digital sign with a small embedded camera that would scan a consumer coming into the store. The networked system would scan the retailer’s database to see if the individual was a return customer, acknowledge him/her and make recommendations based on past purchases—even if they were made at another store.
At the time, it felt spooky, intrusive.
Today, as brick and mortar retail struggles against online competition, this immediate individualized recognition helps develop a closer, personal relationship between the retailer and consumer.
Welcome Back—To compete with online retailers, AI-ready digital signage can and will help retailers create a bond and a real experience for customers.
The increased use of AI-enabled voice/facial recognition combined with timely personal acknowledgment, suggestions, and recommendations are just what younger shoppers want in their engaged, communal retail experience.
When combined with large LED screens managed by centralized media players/controllers, the trip to the store or mall is transformed into a more personalized, interesting, exciting infotainment experience that is more meaningful, more memorable, and more enjoyable than is possible with a sterile, impersonal online purchase.
One of the biggest challenges the industry (suppliers and integrators) face is not simply ensuring personal data remains personal and private but also addressing governmental concerns that AI-enabled AV solutions are built around open democratic values and serve the individual and public, not special interest or governmental entities.
This is especially true in the education sector which is being completely overhauled to take optimum advantage of video conferencing, individual and group classes, and remote collaboration.
While the pandemic brought air travel to a virtual standstill, fortunately, video conferencing and collaboration tools/solutions kept businesses and economies moving. With advanced AI integration in AV solutions, airlines are cautiously optimistic that business and personal air travel can recover because people like to get away and there are always times when true face-to-face meetings/discussions are important.
Perhaps the biggest short-term challenge the industry has faced as the world slowly emerges from the pandemic is successfully and safely integrating AI and AV technology into the educational field.
Remote Education—While people have been talking and planning for remote education for years, the pandemic increased its importance and illustrated how ill-prepared people were to carry it out properly. It continues to be a work-in-progress.
Until this year, the concept of remote education was a good idea and a long-term goal—giving the student (pre-school, grade/high school, university) the individualized assistance and information needed, no matter where they were located and just when they were ready to learn. It was something educators wanted to achieve … someday.
COVID-19 forced schools, educators, tools providers (hardware/software), and students to not just make remote AV-assisted education work but to address all of the issues/challenges in realtime.
AI is interlocking key technologies—speech-to-text, natural language processing, predictive analytics, machine learning, cloud AV conferencing/collaboration—so educators, students, tutors, and parents can carry on video conferences and share realtime data/information to safely, securely, and reliably deliver the best individual and communal education possible. Global online education is expected to increase by nearly 33% annually over the next five years.
“It is perhaps the biggest challenge, the biggest opportunity facing Pro AV providers/integrators today in bringing smooth transitions and connections for students, teachers, and their schools,” McLennan emphasized.
Careful Messages—Digital signage is all around us and is becoming increasingly sophisticated, thanks to advanced use of AI technology. Messages can be subtle and often the more subtle the more negative.
At the same time, the rapid integration and deployment of AI-enriched professional AV solutions face potential risks that only ethical human AV and AI professionals can protect the global community from the:
- inappropriate, unlawful use of AI in our AV media
- development, distortion, amplification of disorder, hate speech
- systemic imbalances between individuals and groups
- denigrating, discouraging diversity
The biggest challenge for developers/integrators is that with the AI-driven AV systems and solutions the industry is not only reaching and enriching the target audiences but also catering to and assisting the most diverse audience possible.
The products Pro AV solution developers and integrators deliver need to provide a symbiotic autonomy … seamlessly bound human and intelligent systems for rapid and accurate exchange of quality information.
To paraphrase what Danny Witwer said in Minority Report, “If there’s a flaw, it’s human.”