In this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Adam Lopez, Director of Advanced Visual Environments for Diversified along with Alexandre Simionescu and Sevan Dalkian of Float4 about the installation of an impressive new AV environment and interactive video wall featuring RealMotion, at the headquarters of eBay in San Jose, California.
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This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Adam Lopez of Diversified along with Alex Simionescu and Sevan Dalkien of Float4.
eBay’s new Main Street is the entry to their campus. Float4 had the creative concept of engaging visitors and eBay workers with the company while Diversified provided installation. Adam Lopez of Diversified is here with Alex Simionescu and Sevan Dalkien of Float4. They’re going to tell us about how it all came together. That’s coming up next on the SVC Podcast.
Guys, I’m glad we could all get together for this one. Let’s go with Adam Lopez at Diversified first. Adam is this project at eBay’s Main Street typical of the things that Diversified does or was this a very special situation? What sort of projects do you do?
Adam: We truly do diverse audio/video projects and have many offerings. eBay is a typical enterprise-type client and the Main Street project is within our wheelhouse, so what we do deliver to other enterprise clients. The type of project we do, we have specialty teams around the country that really tackle projects of all sizes and types in the market ranging from financial to corporate, higher education, healthcare, and then of course enterprise. I belong to the AVE division, which is our Advanced Visual Environments. And we focus on opportunities within the enterprise including immersive experience and unified communication solutions. [Timestamp: 01:51]
A lot going on at Diversified and an incredibly ambitious one here. I can see how not just the installation but the programming and the application itself were a very tall order. Those were Float4 so Alex, tell us about Float4 and how you came together with Diversified to take on this project.
Alex: Absolutely. So Float4 is a company that was founded about nine years ago. We mainly deal with immersive environments that have a lot of interactive elements in them. We don’t work on a specific shape, size or color, but what we really do is look at where people are, what message needs to be delivered and what the physical space is, and look at how we can use interactive technologies to bring all those things together. In this case, one of the things that brought us together with Diversified and eBay and also ESI Design who was in charge of doing a lot of design elements within the space. And they’re really the catalyst that brought us into the project. [Timestamp: 02:53]
That’s where the concept all started but for Diversified I’d like to get a little more into the physical installation itself. Adam, what was the physical foundation for this AV install? You’ve got some interesting columns with LED displays on them and of course the main screen that’s something like a 165-inch video wall.
Adam: Yeah, the eBay installation was extremely coordinated between trades, being the architect, structural engineer, and building GC. The main iconic LED display in the Main Street Hall spans 45 feet wide by 12 foot high in a five-screen, 2.5 millimeter configuration. What was amazing is this display floats in front of a glass wall with zero mullion around it. The LED goes right to the edge. Our engineers worked really closely with the architect and engineers to build a steel, load-bearing structure that suspended the thing four feet away from the wall and 10 foot in elevation above the stage. And the outcome was amazing; the LED floating in front of glass with redwood trees behind it. The columns you mentioned, those were 1.6 millimeter LED columns and we took a lot of care in designing and mocking up these columns. We actually got one of the steel beams from the general contractor into our shop and we physically built the LED columns. They are treated with glass on the front for a retail-type environment. We have perforated steel housing that goes around the sides to create the air flow that we need. And then this was all custom fabricated with an aircraft cable system that actually lowers LED’s so we can provide service to that after installation. The physical installation was very custom and quite exciting the way it turned out. [Timestamp: 4:47]
This was a very high profile project with a lot of time and money invested in it so Alex at Float4, what did eBay want to accomplish with the huge new Main Street display?
Alex: I think first and foremost is make a statement. eBay is a company that in today’s day and age is considered one of the pioneers of online transactions. So if you look at the space and you look at the content that’s displayed on there, it’s very, very much data driven and it’s something that is primarily used to show the quantity of transactions that go through the eBay web site. So how many people at any given moment are able to exchange their goods thanks to the services that they have. Actually, one of the things that I really like about the space is it has some of the first items that were sold on eBay. Honestly, I think one of them was a laser pointer and they got it back from the person who ended up having it so many years after. But also from an architectural standpoint I think what really sets it apart is how the digital media is integrated – and I think Adam described it really, really well – within the architectural elements that distinguish the space. This is no longer about a screen that is hung to a wall. It’s about digital media being applied as a material to the space and then being dynamic and, in this case, very, very interactive. So that’s how I would summarize it. [Timestamp: 6:16]
And Adam, after everything was connected, the whole operation was hooked up what was done to add the control programming to this and really bring it to life?
Adam: The entire system is built around an AMX control system. This is a eBay standard so they wanted to apply standards to their audio/visual environment. And the AMX control system then ties into the CMS servers that are generating real-time data that are coming from the Float4 RealMotion software. We have a series of sensors, cameras around LED columns and the multi-touch Planar video walls, which interact with the lobby’s environment. So all the data that Float4 is processing is turned into generative content. That keeps that content fresh within the entire lobby and in their ambient modes, as they call them, it’s not static and the content is very engaging. [Timestamp: 7:11]
And when you first see this and it’s mighty hard to miss when you first walk in, how is it operated by the viewer? It looks like you can really get into this and it must be as fun as it is informative.
Alex: Absolutely. I think that’s one of the things – and you notice it a little bit on the video, a lot more when you’re there in person – but one of the approaches that we use in these types of environments is to layer different types of interactions. So in this space, for example, you have a motion-sensing device that will detect the user’s silhouettes before they’re within arm’s length of the wall. And so that’s the first thing that we use to kind of break the ice with an interactive experience that people, you know, there’s no way they can get it wrong. It’s not something that’s complicated. There’s no manuals needed. And in a context where people aren’t necessarily aware that it’s an interactive experience it’s a great way to ease them into that experience. The second phase is through touch, and as Adam mentioned the Planar video wall that supports multi-touch capability so more than one person can interact with it. And that also goes for the motion sensing part. So on that end once you’re within arm’s reach then you’re able to touch one of the many articles that’s generated by our system and then you have an interface that appears, that allows you to navigate through different categories of products and see the quantity of products that were sold in that specific category at a given time or over a given period. So it’s a progressive experience. It’s something that starts with something more playful, but then becomes a lot more informational. [Timestamp: 8:46]
Yeah it looks like that in the video. Now, I understand that the RealMotion platform has three main parts. Sevan, can you tell us about those?
Sevan: Essentially, this project was a much more complex project because it had to be a collaborative effort between many companies and tons of people had to work with this. And I think one of the challenges of projects such as this one was to create a visually-compelling experience that was fun and that people would quickly understand how to interact with the digital content, and in the way that was also respecting and accurate to eBay’s vision. So how to translate eBay’s vision into an engaging digital experience. In order to accomplish that you need to have a platform, which is in our case, it’s a hardware and software platform which really has been designed from the ground up. We’ve been working on this solution for about more than five years now from our beginning background. And the idea is to provide the necessary infrastructure to be able to generate content in real time. So as opposed to simple and more traditional video playback, the platform really allows data or visuals to be played in a more dynamic way where things will react and adapt to the source of inputs. As Alex and Adam mentioned, these inputs can be sensors, cameras, touch screens, or in our case also live data that was coming straight from eBay’s database. So we were able live to adapt the content to users all around the world were actually engaging in transactions on eBay’s web site and visualize those transactions in a much more fun and engaging through a particle system that would mimic the various categories of eBay’s products so people would be able to click on those and dive in deeper into the whole world of eBay. Our product is composed of three main elements. The first is the hardware. So the media server that is usually powering the displays, communicating with the various sensors and eBay’s database of course. The second part is the software that really allowed the creative designers to program or script all the behaviors of the particle system, the images of the background – all that has been customized and thought by ESI team up in New York. And the third aspect is an operational aspect. The thing is these projects need to run for as long as they can. They’re meant to be on screens for 24/7 so the system needs to be extremely reliable and stable in that sense. So for us it was important to offer a third element in our product, which is the real admin tool which really allows our clients, our sales and diversifier, to actually monitor the project, see how everything is going on correctly in accordance to specifications for the hardware and software and all the communicational aspects. So all these three elements ensure that a project such as the one at eBay not only was technically challenging, but also engaging on the creative side, but also maintainable from an operational aspect to the 24/7 experience. [Timestamp: 12:08]
That sounds like it would have taken a lot of time to get right and a lot of experimentation to make sure it all comes together. Adam, your people had to make sure the nuts and bolts of this got done right. What kind of a time window were you working with on with all this?
Adam: Really from core, shell and steel to the first day of business was about one year. But I do know that ESI and eBay were working on that well before that – probably a year before that. So it was probably about a two year process from concept to completion. [Timestamp: 12:39]
Well, a huge investment and as I said before, a very high profile project. It’s all done now, so tell us what Diversified has coming up.
Currently right now, Diversified has over a thousand projects happening around the globe and so it would take too long to name them all, but we have some very exciting projects in all our verticals. Probably the largest project out here on the west coast for the AVE group is coming near completion. It will be one of the most sophisticated theaters in the world for one of the largest enterprises in the world. Unfortunately we can’t reveal who that customer is now, but once it hits the streets it will definitely be in the news and the trades and we’re really excited about it. [Timestamp: 13:26]
We’ll certainly be watching for it and Alex, what’s coming up next for Float4?
Alex: Well, we’re working very hard to have thousands of projects all over the world, but we do have some very interesting ones right now. Actually some of them are with Diversified. And we don’t get to stay this enough, but we really, really enjoy working with them because once you get a good team together you can see how you can reproduce success over and over and over. So right now we’re working on a project in Chicago. We have one here in Montreal, and on some earlier stages of projects in the Middle East as well. So from the Montreal shop, we try to spread as much as we can all around the world. [Timestamp: 14:05]
Keeping everybody going full blast. It was great of you all to get with us and give us a look at all sides of this. Once you’ve seen the images and the video it really invites you to know more about what goes on behind the scenes and how it all works. Adam from Diversified, Alex and Sevan from Float4, thanks to all of you for giving us a look at it.
Alex: Thank you very much.
Sevan: Thank you.
Adam: Thank you very much.
It was great having Adam, Alex and Sevan with us on the SVC Podcast from Diversified and Float4. As always, we’ve got show notes and product links on the Sound & Video Contractor Magazine web site at svconline.com. Get back with us again next week for the SVC Podcast.