Business managers are no longer fitting out work spaces and thinking of their technology later. The technology requirements of the digital age mean these spaces need careful planning and consideration of how they can maximise their audio-visual offering and provide the most beneficial user experience.
As a result, AV is facilitating a new kind of meeting and learning. Tired-looking rectangular workspaces are being replaced with less intimidating open-plan areas featuring huddle spaces for small groups of workers to meet and education institutions are looking to create a multimedia experience that will engage students and cultivate a learning.
“AV is no longer just a side technology that you use in a meeting room when you’re giving a presentation – it has become a facilitator of a whole new way of working and planning in office buildings,” says Richard Neale, general manager of AV distributor Amber Technology.
“We’re seeing fewer private offices and more open-plan space with workstations and meeting rooms where people can easily go and hook up their laptops, meet with handfuls of staff, give presentations then go back to their own desks.”
These informal meeting spaces are often optimised with “walk-up-and-use” technologies such as unbound digital whiteboards and interactive digital displays including 4K touch screens capable of Skype or SIP (session initiation protocol) audio conferencing and wi-fi for easily connecting mobile devices.
Huddle spaces have become more popular in convention centres, in the hospitality industry and in universities, where touch-screen technology allows students and staff easy access to activity-based tasks. Staff can quickly connect with external contacts or colleagues working from home.
AV professionals are being challenged to do extensive installations and solve never-before-seen issues to accommodate client needs. One such unique installation was a collaboration between Rutledge AV, CHW Consultants and Ultralift to develop a unique octagonal TV lift system for a multiple-screen learning space at Melbourne’s Monash University.
AV professionals developed a steel ceiling frame capable of housing the eight 98-inch screens. The frames are driven by tubular motors and drawer slides allowing functionally independent motorised movement and a range of different viewing and servicing heights for each screen. The screens can be reconfigured quickly and easily. The result is a flexible AV solution in a modern learning space.
Corporate and educational presenting technology has changed. Users now need options compatible with digital technologies. Lamp-based projectors, while still in use by many businesses, are increasingly being replaced by multi-format presentation switchers that support the latest sources and displays. These systems are scalable and highly intuitive.
“The corporate sector has jumped ahead in leaps and bounds,” Neale says. “We have amazing 4K projectors now at incredibly low price points.”
Cutting-edge technologies in education
In K-12 education, the emphasis is still on creating a multimedia experience that will engage students and cultivate a learning environment for a new generation used to ubiquitous screens.
As such, many installations in primary and secondary education are focused on replacing outdated learning materials with modern and more engaging ones, Neale says.
“We’ve moved beyond blackboards and whiteboards and through the non-interactive projection phase, and we’re now into interactive projection and flat-panel displays,” he says. “It’s very colourful and bright and provides an engaging experience where kids can walk up and touch the screens, move things around and open documents to have an engaging multimedia learning experience.”
Also diffusing into the education market is virtual reality (VR). This technology is being used in primary and secondary schools to immerse students in multisensory learning. In tertiary education it has the added benefit of teaching complex skills for hazardous occupations without the danger.