The National Retail Federation is reporting that consumers want to go back to physical stores (although with the added convenience of permanent curbside pickup). Workers do kinda want to go back to the physical office but with the added convenience of flexible days and hours and hybrid work.
The pandemic asked people—customers, students, employees, employers, artists, retailers, restaurateurs, teachers, parents, trainers and yoga teachers—to be flexible beyond their wildest imaginations. And people blew it away. I did. I bet you did. Everyone I know did.
So now flexibility may turn out to be a permanent capability—and expectation. For better and worse for sure. Maybe that sucking sound of 2019 will pull us back into what used to pass for comfort, or at least inertia. Some things we miss greatly—Live. Music. Some things were just the devil we knew, and some things we don’t care if we ever see again. However, no matter how our whims and tastes settle, whatever power structures slip back into place, I do think at a minimum, generally speaking, we are permanently more flexible and more open to change than we ever were before. For some that flexibility came at a spectacular cost, so I’m pausing a moment in my train of thought to acknowledge them.
In the world away from life and death, many things that used to seem like life and death are just not that anymore. Which means they can change, even need to change.
What does this ramble have to do with AV? Well, specifically, in this issue I spent a chunk of space on the new Illuminarium in Atlanta. With its 19th century carnival name, it is a big, modern, ambitious plan that is deeply dependent on AV tech both for its current iteration and for where it hopes to go.
How this all ties together is that people are looking for different. Indeed they already were, or the Meow Wolf interactive museum-like thing wouldn’t have raised $138 million in VC. But what difference will it be? I was attracted to Illuminarium because in my time as a theme park and museum designer we used to talk all the time about building white-walled rooms that could be reimagined over and over without ever uninstalling a single animatronic puppet.
I don’t know if Illuminarium will reach its total world domination goals of thirty “Illuminariums” and their companion nightclubs worldwide. Honestly I saw a lot of great big ideas come and go in that other career. But that was then, in the before times. Whatever the fate of a particular brainstorm, we sit at a crossroads of technical capability and willingness to use it in new ways. Candidly our systems were not entirely ready for shooting the moon even just five years ago. Now they are, and more so every day. And so the same old challenges come with a brand new challenge from people with imagination. I know those people. We are ready for them. Bring change orders.