How gaming will impact the future of the audio-visual industry
The video game industry has evolved dramatically since the days of Mario dashing through the Mushroom Kingdom in the 1980s. Modern gaming systems boast hardware that can produce lifelike graphics and levels of immersion never before seen, which has led to a dramatic rise in the number of households taking it up as commonplace. However, this progression in technology means gamers need—and demand—stronger AV solutions to get the most out of their machines and the overall user experience.
These advancements have luckily paved the way for opportunities in the AV sector to combine gaming consoles in all installations. This includes optimising sound and video settings on televisions and audio setups specifically for gaming use.
The day that video games became mainstream
A dedicated video gaming system is now an essential part of any home AV setup, and the industry needs to widely accept that.
Importantly, the Digital Australia Report 2016 revealed several key points that prove gaming’s prominent adoption:
- More than 9 in 10 households across Australia have a device for gameplay;
- 65 percent of homes have three or more gaming devices;
- 98 percent of homes with children own video games.
The two major players in the Australian market (as well as global) are Sony with the Playstation 4, and Microsoft with the Xbox One X. These systems boast 4k graphics and sound chips that support Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and other multi-channel audio options. And with the overwhelming majority of households having these devices as part of their existing AV setup, users expect the best quality audio and visual hardware to bring their games to life.
So what has the AV industry learned from the rise of video games from geek to chic?
Well, for starters, there are a range of variables to consider when laying out a home AV setup to include a gaming console. Extenders need to be factored in to connect devices to the console, a distributed AV switch or routing system needs to be included for easy switching between devices and cabling, and all WiFi and Bluetooth connections need to be established.
Another variable is the different levels of 4K vision, with the Xbox One X boasting full 4K capabilities while the PS4 uses upscaling.
To this end, the big AV players across the industry are working hard to cater for all this. For instance, they’re now collaborating directly with video game companies to produce systems that complement each other throughout the installation process, instead of making it a drawn-out process.
An example in action is AV integration and design company CAVS, who were commissioned by Microsoft to set up a lab where the video game giant could showcase how merging technologies interact with each other. The room is also designed to be used for testing and reviewing games.
AV equipment and video game consoles work hand-in-hand in the modern world, with integrators needing to marry the two technologies together for a consumer-base that loves to game. And that all starts with environments like Microsoft’s—ones that allow for innovation and experimentation to refine the entire process.
How virtual reality will change the way AV businesses operate
The next evolution of video gaming that the AV industry needs to consider is the growing improvements in the virtual reality sector.
VR is not new, with the first patented example of the technology coming in the form of a device called the Telesphere Mask in 1960.
And since then, there have been numerous commercial failures over the years, including Nintendo’s doomed Virtual Boy of the 1990s. This massive critical failure was scrapped after just months and only shipped 14 games. The list of flaws was extensive, with its lack of portability, headache-inducing visuals and the lack of software at the forefront.
It took almost 20 years of the video gaming industry to try again, but now the technology is starting to find parity with the concept, partly in thanks to AV advancements.
In quarter three of 2017, Sony shipped 490,000 PlayStation VR headsets, Oculus shipped 210,000 Rift headsets and HTC shipped 160,000 Vive units—which is solid growth for this industry.
So how is this changing the way that AV installers set up home systems? The popularity of virtual reality devices is prompting installers to incorporate VR into their packages, even working directly with VR companies to integrate the hardwares.
One example is American pro AV distributor Stampede Global, which has signed a deal that will see it distribute Seattle-based VRstudios’ virtual-reality platform and products.
“We believe that virtual reality is going to have a profound impact on the [pro AV] industry,” Stampede president Kevin Kelly said.
One extension of VR from a gaming device to practical AV tool is the use of the headsets to control drones, technology that Stampede is already working on.
Other AV companies are looking at combining virtual reality with their existing integration, like America’s AVI-SPL.
“The goal is to bundle the entire experience for the client, so we’re working closely with content developers so that we can bring a complete solution, with hardware and software,” Senior Vice President of Sales, Dale Bottcher, said.
There are a range of new frontiers for the AV industry using VR that are in the pipeline as well. Sport is the first major entertainment channel being trialed with VR outside of gaming, with viewers getting a 360-degree view of the action.
Broadcast and live events are likely to follow suit, with VR company NextVR recently signing a five-year deal with Fox Sports.
And training in the AV industry could even use VR headsets, allowing installers to get virtual insights into new technologies and ways of integrating AV set ups.
This is not the only lesson the AV industry can take from gaming, either, with digital collaboration finding new strengths in the gaming community. Complete strangers are able to work in teams in modern warfare games, which can inspire new ways for AV integrators to work together in the future.
The days of simply plugging a gaming console into a television set are long behind us, with these systems now playing an integral role in the average home’s overall living room set-up. Which makes it critical for AV integrators to be skilled in the art of connecting this ever-evolving technology and weaving it into their installations.
About the Author: Josh Alston
Josh Alston is a journalist, editor and copywriter who has worked for several daily, community and regional newspapers across the Queensland seaboard for 12 years. In this time he has covered news, sport and community issues and has been published in major daily newspapers and nationally online for breaking news. Josh presently works as a freelance reporter writing for clients including the Victorian Government, AGL Energy and a host of others.