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Surely You Gesture

Integrated Systems Europe 2012 was held two weeks ago in Amsterdam. One of the more interesting items to come out of it was a demo by Crestron that showed a Microsoft Kinect integrated with a control system – in this case controlling the PowerPoint and lighting. Here is the link. Go watch it. I’ll wait….

Cool huh? Sure it’s pretty basic, but could this be the predecessor of our future control systems? It is Crestron dabbling in this after all; I don’t think that’s insignificant.

One advantage I have heard mentioned is no more gunky touch screens. (Do you really have people who clean them periodically?)

A gesture based system may allow for control from a wider range of locations. I am assuming, like mine, your faculty relate to AV control locations the way cats relate to patio doors: the other side would be better.

Many of us have wondered where touch-sensitive monitors are going. Are they going to take over for interactive whiteboards and give us something easier to integrate into an auditorium? If gesture control develops fast enough could it steal some of that thunder and let us turn any image into an interactive whiteboard? I think that level of annotation and interaction, coupled with the ability to wander around the teaching area, might just be the “killer app.”

Voice control? I don’t know. Siri seems to be having quite a bit of trouble with accents. I’m sure the algorithms will get better, but most of our campuses are quite the eclectic mix of nationalities. I can’t help but think we will be a difficult application to master. Besides, how much error-free consistency do you want to see in a control system before you install it in a room? With voice control the first one they yell at is the system, and you know who the second is….

I think it’s intriguing. I think it’s something we are going to see more of. I think it has some great potential. What do you think? Is this the (ahem) wave of the future.

Greetings and felicitations

Hello AV-1’ers. Hello world. Welcome to my first effort as an “AV-1 Insider”, a new feature here on AV-1 whereby a group of us will periodically bring you our thoughts or observations, or maybe just toss a question out there for the “group mind” to discuss – something longer than tweet, but typically shorter than a big fluffy blog post.

I know, I know, you are probably thinking: “Ooooooh, he works at UCLA!” I wish I could say the work lived up to the mystique, but our primary responsibility is AV in the classrooms. Most of them are decidedly more functional and utilitarian than anything else. With our limited campus space, plus the state budget being what it is out here, large building projects involving classrooms and fancy AV system design have been rather rare.

In fact we will only now hit 100% – 196 rooms – with full AV systems this summer if everything goes as planned. We have been trying to add 6 rooms a quarter the last few years, doing all the work here in-house.

As soon as I figure out how to do it, I hope to begin linking to and commenting on articles I come across. I read a lot. It’s how I try to keep up with this little corner of the madly spinning AV world that we call home.

As always, your comments are welcomed and encouraged. This is a participatory environment. Just remember – if it’s not yet blindingly obvious – we are not professional writers. We do what you do. Most of us work somewhere in the higher-ed AV world. We are fellow geeky tech nerds. Most of us still have more VCRs and videotapes in our rooms than we would ever care to admit to in polite AV company. Besides, we’re volunteers. We are doing this purely for the fame and glory. (Note to self: review life choices.)

So welcome to these odd new little corners of the AV-1 site – windows into our respective AV psyches. I anticipate this one will be a bit eclectic and disorganized, but always interesting and good for a little fun – just like a good garage or basement.

Class Capture

I have been working with the new Crestron Capture HD. So far, I am very impressed. What I like most about it is that there is not huge backend required to use it. A simple USB thumb drive will suffice. Therefore, the initial cost is much lower than anything else on the market. What I am not nuts about is that it records in .ts. This format is a real pain to work with. So far, all I have really found that plays nice with .ts is VLC.

Survey Results: Projector Freeze

Have you ever asked a question to which you were certain that you already knew the answer? On this week’s survey, we thought we had done just that. Expecting to hear that one particular brand of projector, when coupled with one particular control system manufacturer would cause periodic problems with RS-232, we relished the “reveal” moment when we could proclaim, “It was Colonel Mustard in the parlor with a knife!” Sadly, we hadn’t a clue.

Continue reading Survey Results: Projector Freeze

My First Month with the iPad

This week, AV-1er Hal Meeks shares his first month with an iPad.

I was fortunate enough be given an iPad through work. It was easy to justify based on what I do for a living. The reality was that I was prepared to buy one for myself, so I am sitting on the money to do just that at a later date. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you my initial observations…

oooh, baby!

iPad as computing appliance
The iPad represents the shift from computer platform to computing appliance. There are many examples of this now, but the iPad represents the most blatant.

The Tivo is a computing appliance in that it runs an operating system, has a processor, RAM and storage, and a modest amount of third-party support. However, unlike a personal computer, it is a “closed” environment that not just anyone can write for.

Video game systems, to some extent, represent the same idea. It is possible to hack these to run third-party applications, but it’s really not the intended use. It seems to me that the iPad represents a further shift in this idea, whether someone agrees with it or not.

Flash: conspicuously absent
Flash Flash is the most hotly contested. It is a disservice to not support embedded flash applications in the browser. There are legitimate technical reasons to exclude flash, but at the end of the day I would have included Flash application support in the browser, but not necessarily for stand-alone apps. As for flash as a video player – I think that bird has flown. The HTML video tag has too many benefits to not adopt it. The “which format” issue will sort itself out – I root for the open source alternatives – but the pragmatist in me says that h264 will win – hardware acceleration, better tools, more content.

Battery life = game-changer
Battery life can be a deciding factor for many who consider buying a tablet. I am watching my battery go down on my MacBook right now, but on the iPad the battery life is so phenomenal that I don’t even think to check it.

Some apps really shine
Music apps such as Megasynth, Bebot work fantastically. Megasynth has made the leap from novelty to near-killer app. Where will it go once MIDI support is enabled, who knows? I can’t wait to see what kinds of graphic applications show up on the device!

The looming tablet-fest
It will take about a year before the other manufacturers begin to ship truly competitive products to the iPad. HP’s purchases of Palm and WebOS hold some promise.

Price at cost of power
Asus T91 review at CNet Most of the tablets out now are using hardware that is not nearly as power-efficient as the iPad. These toy tablets are little more than netbooks in a different form factor. Price will affect rate of adoption. As with netbooks, there is definitely a price/performance tipping point. The $150 netbooks aren’t selling because they are too underpowered for what people want them for. A $200 tablet versus a $350 tablet may be a world of difference. Apple figured this out.

How about you?
Have you evaluated the iPad? Have you fallen under its spell? What is your perspective on this frenzy? Chime in in the comments section below or on the AV-1 Forum.

This report was reposted with permission from the blog hal meeks made it up.

by Hal MeeksFollow me on Twitter
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Change and Trust

I’m writing to share an observation: the people around us — our customers, reports, coworkers and bosses — pay attention. Especially in the workplace, those around us tune in not just to the things we say and do, but also to our motives (whether stated or implied) behind our actions. They want to know that we can be trusted and that they can trust us with their best interests.

Trust makes good neighbors.

Even up here in staid northern New England, the average Joe and Josephine have their personal antennae up almost all the time.

My ER doctor-friend, for example, was closing on the purchase of 100-acres atop a hillside in Vermont when rumor had it his commute to the hospital (two hours by car) was to be by helicopter. Without a word, the town council placed a no-helipad restriction on his deed (so for kicks I occasionally threaten to put a windsock up there while he’s away on vacation). There had been no plan for a propeller-commute, and, had either party taken the time to build trust, the town council could have avoided embarrassing themselves.

Speaking of antennae, one night in our small town, a patrol car pulled me over for a burned out tail light. The next morning all the police scanner owners in my shop ribbed about my reckless driving, but I digress.

Trust gets things done.

Positional PowerI wonder, are many managers are aware of this? After all, people tend to hide their feelings pretty well. It may be that in many cases management is so overwhelmed with handling the big issues that they forget the importance of building their credibility and trustworthiness among their subordinates.

Invariably, those managers (well, I suppose we have all committed this offense) try using their positional power as a shortcut to some quick win, and what happens?

The same managers are struck suddenly by their subordinates’ apparent resistance to change. Workers who previously merited high praise now are regarded as stubborn and lazy. Frustration sets in. Pretty soon, the supervisor concludes that the staff aren’t listening, can’t learn, or worse, they have innate incapacity to self-actualize (see Maslov’s Pyramid).

Truth is, when people are behind you all the way, they will walk on hot coals to get the job done, whatever it takes. But when we have no trust for those in command, and no confidence in the mission, we drag our feet.

Continue reading Change and Trust

AV Technology Mag: Lifecycle Planning with Ernie Bailey

Ernie Adams (no relation to Ernie Bailey) as Toothpick Charlie (purveyor of another type of "lifecycle business"), from BRENDA STARR, REPORTER (Columbia, 1945) Long-time AV-1er, Ernie Bailey, is Director of AV Services at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He recently completed his term as chair of InfoComm's Technology Managers Council and, with all that free time no doubt, penned an excellent article for AV Technology Magazine in which he details key steps to successful, long-term, lifecycle planning.

He begins with a parable:

There was a monastery in Greece that was built on top of a very steep precipice. The only access was by a basket on a long rope, pulled by a monk on top. A visitor riding up to the top looked at the aged rope and asked his host how often the rope was replaced. The monk thought a moment and then replied, “I guess whenever it breaks.”

Bailey notes that many technology managers take the monk’s approach to maintaining presentation systems. There is no planning for the future, but instead an expectation for the equipment and systems to last forever.

Does this sound familiar?

Schools, government institutions, industries, and large corporations all have disaster recovery plans in the event of an emergency. An AV disaster may be avoided by having a systematic plan in place to replace components before failure.

A defined plan, reviewed and updated regularly, will go a long way toward achieving and maintaining a professional presentation facility that can be counted on to work when needed. Click here to read the full article at AV Technology Online.