Yep. AVIXA did it. They successfully resurrected the in-person version of the InfoComm show. And Recon Research was there with the die-hards in Orlando taking it all in.
The InfoComm 2021 Experience
The months, weeks, and days leading up to the show were no doubt stressful for the InfoComm team.
- Week after week, we heard about one anchor player after another pulling out of the show.
- Social media was abuzz with posts from people going and people not going to the event.
- Some in-person events were canceled, while others went virtual.
- COVID case numbers went up and went down and then back up again.
- International travel rules changed multiple times.
But InfoComm remained steadfast in its position that, “the show must go on.” And that it did.
When we first arrived at the show, we were asked to show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test within 5 days. We were then given a wristband indicating that we had passed the Covid admittance requirements and could now enter the show.
However, it didn’t take long for show attendees to figure out that a green wristband meant you were vaccinated, and all other colors meant you were not. Hmmm. On the one hand, perhaps people have a right to know. On the other hand, people have a right to privacy. The idea of tagging people by their vax status using wristbands caused some social awkwardness and left more than a few people quite upset. Even now, we’re not sure how we feel about this. But the show must go on.
As we first walked onto the show floor, we immediately felt the “smallness” of this year’s event. Suffice it to say that this year’s InfoComm was a mere shadow of its prior self. By our rough count, there were roughly 250 vendors exhibiting this year compared to more than 1,000 in a normal year.
The halls and walkways were far from crowded, but they weren’t empty either. We now know from AVIXA that 7,335 people attended InfoComm 2021 in person. While this pales in comparison to the ~ 44,000 who attended in 2019, the reality is that it could have been much worse.
In keeping with InfoComm tradition, AVIXA offered a range of educational sessions, courses, and training opportunities. However, this too was significantly downsized (see the screenshot below showing each day’s program).
One of the things we like the most about InfoComm is the numerous networking opportunities and evening events. For example, Crestron’s annual event includes food, drinks, and entertainment and draws thousands of people.
Unfortunately, this year’s social calendar was also downsized. However, we did attend social gatherings hosted by CTI / AVNation and Atlas / IED. Thank you for your hospitality!
Between the wristband fiasco, almost total lack of anchor players exhibiting, limited educational opportunities, and vastly reduced social opportunities, you’d think InfoComm 2021 would be a bust. Au contraire mes amis. Au contraire.
With the monster vendors out of the way (you know what we mean), we were able to meet with some of the smaller players we brief with but normally don’t have time to meet with at the show.
For example …
- We had our hands on USB conferencing devices from EPOS, MAXHUB, UNV, VHD, and WyreStorm.
- We attended demos of 360-degree camera offerings from Coolpo, Kandao, and MAXHUB.
- We saw wireless presentation and conferencing systems from both large players (e.g., Barco and Intel) and small players (e.g., Ditto and ScreenBeam).
- We inked on ideation solutions from ClearTouch, eGlass, Newline, Sharp NEC, TouchView, and others.
The list of vendors above is but the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, we can’t possibly cover every company and solution we saw in Orlando. Instead, we’ll cover a few vendors and solutions that stood out among the crowd.
Notable Vendors and Solutions at InfoComm 2021
eGlass – according to this company’s website, “eGlass is an illuminated transparent writing glass with a built-in camera that captures your face and writing in the same picture …”
Our view is that eGlass is somewhat of a mash-up between a dry erase board and an old-school overhead projector (OHP).
The left rendering above shows a person writing on an eGlass device. As shown, the person (teacher, presenter, moderator, leader, etc.) stands behind the glass, looks through the glass at the other meeting participants or students, and writes on the board.
The eGlass camera (see the red circle in the left rendering above) captures the person’s face and writing, flips the image to the proper orientation, and provides the captured image to a PC (see middle rendering above) or video conferencing system.
The system can also be used with a laptop (see the image below showing a laptop sitting on a shelf on the camera arm). Once the laptop is placed in position, the presenter sees the laptop through the glass and can then annotate over the laptop content. The eGlass system them composites (meaning merges) the laptop image and writing together into a single video stream as shown below.
eGlass offers several key benefits not offered by traditional dry-erase boards, including the ability to:
- share dry-erase board content with both local and remote participants (perfect for hybrid work and distance learning),
- maintain face contact with local (in-room) participants and students while writing on the board
- provide remote participants with a view of the presenter’s face
eGlass is available for purchase on the company’s website (www.eglass.io) for $2,198 (35” version) or $3,298 (50” version).
Kandao – Shenzhen-based Kandao offers a range of imaging products and related software, including the “Meeting” line of meeting room cameras.
- Meeting S is a 180-degree USB camera with embedded Android OS (MSRP $569)
- Meeting is a 360-degree USB camera (MSRP $699)
- Meeting Pro is a 360-degree USB camera with embedded Android OS (MSRP $899)
Each Meeting device includes a microphone array, integrated speaker, active speaker detection, and automatic compositing to ensure that the remote participants can see everyone in the meeting room.
The system can be used in BYOD mode (leveraging the user’s laptop) or appliance mode (the onboard compute can run basically any Android-based collaboration app such as Teams, Zoom, etc.).
The Meeting devices are small and compact and are controlled using a handheld remote.
Modus VR – if a picture is worth 1,000 words, a customizable, interactive, virtual reality experience is certainly worth a lot more. That’s the concept behind Modus VR.
Modus VR allows AV integrators, consultants, and others to recreate a space (e.g., meeting room, auditorium, lecture hall, home theatre, etc.) in real-time to allow others to experience the finished experience before construction begins.
In all fairness, the concept of using virtual reality to “present” a spatial plan or AV experience is not new. However, the time and expertise required to create the VR experience made it cost-prohibitive for all but the largest projects (with massive budgets). Modus VR aims to change all that.
The company has partnered with 50+ manufacturers to create 3D renderings that can be included in the rendered spaces.
- Want to see what a Poly Studio X50 will look like installed in a conference room?
- Want to see what a Logitech Rally Bar Mini’s camera installed at different heights (e.g., above or below a display) will capture in your space?
- Want to see what a Crestron Flex Tabletop device will look like sitting on the meeting room table?
- Want to see how well a certain size or shape of table or seating arrangement will work in your boardroom?
- Want to see how well your ceiling speakers will cover your meeting room?
- Want to visualize how sound treatment helps a room eliminate echo?
Modus VR can address all of these areas – and more. Also, if your preferred device (e.g., camera, touch controller, furniture, etc.) isn’t available within the Modus VR library, the system offers “generic” modules that can be customized as required.
The process of creating a 3D rendering and exporting it to line drawings seemed quite fast based on the demo we sat through.
Currently, Modus VR supports the following VR headsets: HTC Vive, HTC Vive Pro, and Oculus Rift.
Modus VR’s solution is available by subscription only.
Newline – in the Newline booth, we saw two of the company’s newest interactive touch displays (the K Series for K-12 spaces, and the Z Series for corporate spaces).
Newline is not alone in this space, but we were drawn by the look, feel, and simplicity of the Newline design. Also, the fact that Newline offers touch displays with onboard Android compute or optional OPS compute offers tremendous flexibility.
We also saw a demo of the Newline Launch Control software (OEM’d from DisplayNote), a well-designed app that makes it quick and easy to jump between different video conferencing apps/platforms.
Closing Thoughts on InfoComm 2021
While we’re not immune to the health risks and Covid concerns, we are glad that AVIXA moved ahead with the show.
This show was much smaller than prior events (and remember – we go back MANY years with this show), but the InfoComm experience still shone through.
Sure – some of the industry’s anchor vendors were missing. And International participation was severely lacking. But this paved the way for smaller vendors to meet with real buyers looking for solutions in real time.
While we didn’t conduct any formal surveys or interviews of show attendees, every participant we spoke to said they were glad they made the trek. Perhaps the sample set was replete with die-hards who’ve already sipped the Pro AV Kool-Aid instead of typical participants. And perhaps we’re a part of the InfoComm cult. Who knows? But we were there … and we felt the vibe on the floor.
Given its small size and limited attendance, was going to InfoComm 2021 worth the time and expense? Absolutely YES.
We’re looking forward to next year in Vegas!
While not specifically messaged or highlighted in any booth or session we attended, the silent roar at the show was about the global supply chain.
It’s abundantly clear that component shortages, shipping delays, and increased cost are causing significant industry-wide stress. Common themes at the show and during recent briefings include:
- AV installation delays as integrators wait for delayed products
- Price increases and margin reductions due to increased logistics and shipping costs
- Roadmap slippage due to component shortages
- Product design changes to avoid some hard-to-source parts and chips
For many vendors, the supply chain issues will likely worsen before they improve.