Two Halls. That was the first sign that something was different. Sure those two halls at the Las Vegas convention center were not as packed as you would get at NAB, but you could at least say this: InfoComm 2018 would not have fit in one hall.
The other early sign was the buzz that came off the TIDE Conference, early in the week. Kind of the TED Talk of the AV industry, it got rave reviews for programming that was designed to expand the imagination way beyond end points.
The Women in AV breakfast was sold out and packed. And rather than speeches from the dais (there were a few) there was the kind of fierce, messy networking that you often see when grassroots groups start figuring out how the cats will be herded and who is bringing the snacks.
The first InfoComm for AVIXA had a flavor of, well maybe not rebellion, but a kind of de-centralizing, and a rising up of ideas and individuals testing their wings and their ideas. After many years of taking a more topdown, hierarchical approach to service, AVIXA seems to found a new kind of energy by letting the energy flow. Not perfect, but more alive.
The word that kept coming to me was confidence. For the past few years, the energy I encountered at InfoComm was often about waking up from the post-recession rigors and finally having some room to breathe. It was about confronting an inferiority complex with IT and a real doubt about who their future client would be and whether AV would get a place at the table.
That’s not how it felt this year. There were some aggressive takes on technology, some risks, and some why-not in the mix. It was like we finally accepted that it’s not safe, so no more playing it safe. I don’t know if all the gambles will pay off, the future is particularly hard to read at the moment, but it matters less. People were having fun and putting it out there, and no one was apologizing for a change.
I will give a special callout to Yamaha for my favorite booth visit. No contest. Yes, there were flashier booths—gorgeous display at Panasonic for example—but at the Yamaha booth I was reminded of the cool factor of AV that IT cannot meet for all its smug superiority. Arranged like a mini experience center, with a fine Yamaha grand piano, a “silent” electrical bass and an occasional drop-in trumpet, it reminded me that AV really is an experience, they way it can deliver image and sound, and shape an environment to relax, invite, or impress.