I'm swamped managing everything from logistics to design for my company's exhibiting program, but I'd still like to stay on top of the latest trends in audiovisual technology. So what's new when it comes to exhibit- and event-related AV?
Given the myriad tasks assigned to exhibit managers, "stay atop AV trends" likely falls to the bottom of the list. And that's just fine, as there are plenty of AV professionals who can help you stay ahead of the curve. But now perhaps more than ever, it's important for you to seek out that advice, particularly because technology seems to be changing at a breakneck speed. If you're not at least paying attention to the trends, you'll be left in the dust – likely surrounded by piles of archaic AV equipment. So here are some predictions for the top six trends you should be using in your exhibit and at your events.
➤ 1. 4K and 3-D Monitors
One glance at the show floor of the International Consumer Electronics Show, which is littered with lower-cost 3-D and 4K monitors, and you'll agree that this technology isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It's everywhere. Granted, content needs to be created specifically for this technology to be showcased to its full potential. But 4K monitors are so bright with brilliant colors that they can't help but catch attendees' eyes. For the viewer, it's like looking out a window into the world. The 3-D monitors offer a more interactive feel, and exhibitors wanting to show depth and dimension to products can easily incorporate them into their exhibit designs.
As the need for higher resolution grows within the health-care exhibiting sector, many brands on the medical and pharmaceutical side are switching to these types of monitors. Even exhibitors in the industrial sector are using these more because of the high-end CAD drawings and schematics they want to display on them. Eventually, 3-D technology will likely become so pervasive that 2-D screens will seem as obsolete as black-and-white televisions.
➤ 2. Projection Mapping
Projection mapping (also known as spatial augmented reality and video mapping) is a type of projection technology used to turn objects (often those irregularly shaped) into a display surface for video projection. By using specialized software, a 2-D or 3-D object is spatially mapped on the virtual program, which mimics the real environment it's being projected onto. The software can interact with a projector to fit any desired image onto any surface. Exhibitors are definitely dabbling in this technology right now, but I foresee more and more of them using it to create an ever-changing environment within their exhibits. With projection mapping, you can display multiple graphic designs, images, colors, and videos as the canvas of your booth and make drastic or incremental changes to your exhibit design or graphics without changing out a sign, banner, or piece of exhibitry.
➤ 3. Wireless Products
Running wires throughout an exhibit consumes major time and money during the installation and dismantle process. Plus, wire management and concealment becomes a major issue, particularly if you're not using some type of raised flooring or a system with internal wire management. Going wireless – i.e., using mostly wireless products such as wireless audio and video receivers to manage your audio presentation – has been a growing desire among exhibitors, but reliability has always been a concern. However, wirelessly pushing content from a computer or mobile device, such as a smartphone or iPad, to a large-screen display using AppleTV or Mac Mini, is quickly becoming commonplace in everyday life.
This same trend is expanding to the exhibit floor via the use of products such as wireless high-speed Internet, wireless audio speakers, wireless battery-operated lighting, and maybe even wireless power some day. Any one of these devices can dramatically decrease the number of wires within your space and the labor-related costs associated with running them. We can't completely cut the cords just yet, but continue to look for more and more products that will take us in that direction.
➤ 4. Oculus Rift Technology
The Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset will go on sale the first quarter of 2016. This technology on a large and small scale will play a major role in trade shows in the coming years. The Rift headsets allow the wearers to be emerged into an augmented reality like those first created for video games. Soon, companies will be using the headsets to give exhibit visitors an up close and personal view or a virtual walk-through of products and services, or even an exploratory view of otherwise impossible environments, such as those inside the human body or within the deepest depths of the ocean.
At EXHIBITORLIVE 2015, Global Experience Specialists Inc. used this technology to create a compelling attendee experience. Software and programming will need to be created for the trade show industry, but I definitely see this as a potential game changer.
➤ 5. Lampless Projectors
Projectors play a huge role in most trade show environments, but one of the biggest pain points involved with them is the lamp (aka bulb). Just like other light sources, the lamp is unpredictable, and even a new lamp can go bad right out of the box. So if you don't have a back-up projector or replacement lamp at the ready, your presentation and your exhibit could implode right along with the bulb.
Still somewhat new to the market, laser-based projectors are becoming more prevalent because they don't require a lamp change and can support the newest display technologies (including 4K). As this technology grows and pricing comes in line with lamp projectors, we will no doubt see many of them incorporated into the trade show environment as well as corporate events. This may negate the need for back-up projectors and lamps and reduce the overall cost of AV equipment.
➤ 6. LED Displays
Banners and flat graphic signs may become a thing of the past once LED becomes more affordable, flexible, and lighter weight. An LED display is essentially a flat-panel monitor that uses an array of light-emitting diodes as pixels for video or graphics. This technology offers incredible brightness, which allows the displays to be used outdoors as store signs and billboards.
Plus, LED displays are capable of providing low cost general illumination, such as exhibit lighting, and they can be used as visual displays for informational purposes. Granted, the overall cost and weight is somewhat prohibitive on a larger scale. But soon, most traditional exhibit signage will likely be replaced with LED panels, thereby allowing exhibitors, show organizers, and contractors to quickly and easily change messaging on the fly.
Given the increasing speed of technology development, there are no doubt countless new devices and applications ready to take the exhibit world by storm. But at this point in time, these six technologies seem to have the most potential to directly impact the trade show environment in the very near future.
— Paul Wedesky, senior vice president, audio visual services, Global Experience Specialists Inc., Irving, TX