By: Matthew Wailling, Director, Cordless Consultants
Published: 24th October 2011
Copyright Cordless Consultants © 2011
While interactive whiteboards have been commonplace in UK education for over 10 years, they’re only now becoming a more regular addition to meeting rooms (or, as we seem to call them these days, collaboration spaces). Businesses are finally starting to acknowledge that a tatty flip-chart in the corner of a meeting room is not likely to set the world on fire, least of all for graduates used to working in AV-rich classrooms and lecture theatres.
The rise of the whiteboard is an indicator of how advanced audiovisual technology has really started to establish itself as the norm in the commercial workplace. Recent introductions to forward-thinking firms include fully immersive 3D displays, holographic displays, large format screens that can bend round a column and even digital signage displays that can change content in response to a viewer’s emotion.
You’ll have spotted that these are all things we can see; it’s the V of AV that tends to get people excited. Spend some of your hard-fought-for technology budget on a large new LED screen and everyone can see the investment, but upgrade meeting room audio provision and your investment is less obvious, even if it’s just as powerful.
Audio is a vital part of any AV environment. Granted, death by PowerPoint would be all the more painful if each slide transition was accompanied by the sound effect of breaking glass—even if it was in 7.1 surround sound. But audio shouldn’t be overlooked. Speak to teachers and they‘ll tell you that audio enhancement and voice reinforcement is increasingly seeing investment, because we all learn in different ways. Some learn by doing (kinaesthetic); some by seeing (visual); and an equal amount by listening (auditory). This goes some way to explaining the success of the interactive whiteboard in the meeting room collaboration space: as a large-format, interactive display, an interactive whiteboard ticks both kinaesthetic and visual learning boxes. But properly provisioned audio is still a rarity.
We don’t just need quality audio for a nifty PowerPoint. We’ve all been on that long conference call where a remote participant sounds like they‘re connected via a tin can on a piece of string. Or we’ve sat at the front of a conference room, half deafened by speakers turned up full so people at the back stand a chance of hearing what’s being said.
The cause of this problem is twofold. Firstly, it’s the perceived value of audio, for example: how many people spend hundreds of pounds on a large TV for their living room and then don’t spend the extra £200 for the surround sound system to accompany it? Secondly, it’s a design issue. Display screens are looking sleeker all the time and some digital displays are a design statement that all but the most traditional of interior architects will accept. Irrespective of this, by their very nature, digital displays are intended to be seen and act as a focal point. This is not the case for speakers. For the large part, speakers are far from beautiful and cannot simply be hidden as they often need to go in very specific places to provide equal sound distribution.
While technology advancement alone can’t overcome the perceived value of high quality audio, it can cure both the aesthetic and location challenges via two unique approaches.
The first keeps interior designers happy by making speakers invisible. Amina loudspeakers, for example, can be fitted into walls or ceilings and then finished with a final skim of plaster and decorated as normal, giving a totally invisible audio solution. This means that, in a space where design needs to be of the very highest standard, both A and V can be provided in equally impressive measure.
The second approach is through directional audio provided by beam steer speakers. In the same way you can accurately direct a beam of light wherever you want, you can now do the same with sound. Leading lights in this field are Tannoy (with QFlex) and Renkus Heinz (with IconYX). Thanks to these systems, even sound disbursement can be achieved in the most acoustically challenging spaces and when speakers can’t be sited in the ideal location.
A variation on the second approach achieves impressive results for different uses. Where a normal speaker disburses sound waves in a field stretching around 120degrees from the speaker cone, narrow beam directional speakers focus this to around 10 degrees. So it’s now possible to have an open collaboration space with audio that doesn’t disrupt the surrounding workspace, as narrow beam speakers can be sited above breakout areas to send audio to those areas only.
So, back to those three learning styles: kinaesthetic, visual and auditory. With all the time and effort that goes into making resources and employees as efficient and effective as possible in today’s workplace, it’s worrying to think that without the right audio experience, a third of your audience may have tuned out of your presentation a long time before that final PowerPoint slide with the electronic applause.
We have not received any comments against this entry. Why not be the first?
We automatically stop accepting comments 180 days after a post is published. If you would like to know more about this subject, please contact us and we'll try to help.
Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
T: +44 (0)190 888 0760 | F: +44 (0)190 888 0761