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Case Study: Thomas J. Watson Research Center, New York

When IBM wanted to update their main auditorium display in the Thomas J. Watson Research Center headquarters, they needed a solution that reflected the organization’s status as one of the largest industrial research organizations in the world, a place where IBM has pioneered scientific breakthroughs across many promising and disruptive technologies.

Watson teams are credited with bringing the first personal computer to life, as well as creating the first hard disk, the development of magnetic stripes for credit cards, and the practice of barcode scanning, just to name a few. Today, the company is leading research in cutting-edge fields such as artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and quantum computing. This includes IBM Watson, the company’s suite of enterprise-ready AI services, applications, and tooling.

Researchers at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center often need to present findings in executive and client engagement meetings which take place in their impressive 240-seat auditorium, designed by neo-futuristic industrial designer, Eero Saarinen. Tackling some of the world’s most complex problems and promising opportunities, IBM requires presentation displays that are effective and inspiring to truly communicate the importance of their projects. To do this, they selected a Digital Projection Radiance LED Video Wall for their primary display.

The previous display technology utilized in the auditorium was a Digital Projection TITAN Pro Series projector with a motorized screen. The client’s vision involved upgrading to direct-view LED technology to create a brighter, more color-rich, and dynamic presentation space, uninhibited by ambient light, and capable of delivering ultra-high resolution up to 8K. The modular Radiance LED solution also allowed IBM to benefit from a totally seamless image across the entire front wall.

In order to achieve the desired resolution, and to ensure an excellent viewing experience from every seat in the venue, the 1.2mm pixelpitch Radiance LED Performance Series was deployed. Designed to be maintained completely from the front, and needing only a few inches of depth, the Radiance LED system required very little modification to the auditorium wall infrastructure. The actual LED display panels fit perfectly where original wood paneling was installed.

The resulting LED display, measured 34 feet wide by 16 feet tall, installed to match an architecturally significant curved wall, which was important to the aesthetic of the auditorium. In partnership with HB Communications, Digital Projection provided design engineering and installation of the curved wall, ensuring a successful deployment of the enormous, near-8K resolution display.

Collaborating with HB Communications, a new state-of-the-art presentation and production system was developed to compliment the finepitch LED video wall. Tim Hutton, Senior Account Executive at HB Communications describes the integration process as very in-depth, “We included an Analog Way multi-layer premium seamless switcher, Ross SDI routing system, Crestron NVX network AV encoding/decoding system, Shure MXA910 Beamforming Ceiling Microphones, Meyer Sound surround sound speaker system, and Panasonic HD PTZ camera systems, just to name a few.

“One of the main challenges for this application was meeting the client’s technology requirements while preserving the architectural integrity of the auditorium. The front wall of the auditorium consisted of wood paneling, which IBM wanted to retain so an ingenious solution was needed. Multiple high-resolution pictures of the front wall were taken and combined into a single background image that perfectly emulated the wood paneling when displayed on the Radiance LED Video Wall.

“During our opening event, we displayed a high definition image of our original wall on the LED wall and our community did not know the original wall had been removed and replaced with an image,” recalls Lorraine Herger, Former Director of Research Integrated Solutions at IBM. “The colors, brightness, clarity, and depth of vision that can be achieved are amazing.”


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