We live in an interactive world: one of touchscreens, smart TVs and choose-your-own-adventure shows. As a result, consumers expect an interactive, easy-to-use experience everywhere, says Elo sales manager Kristin Roubie.

Combining digital and physical worlds is the best way to create the instantaneous satisfaction that today's customers demand. According to Ron Martin of the Panasonic Hollywood Lab, unifying physical and digital experiences was noted as a priority for virtually every customer experience-focused organization they surveyed.

To bring those experiences to life, 9 out of 10 customer experience-focused organizations intend to invest in advanced display technologies within three years.

The traditionally passive world of AV is becoming more interactive by the day — here's how to stay ahead of the changes.

The Rise of Interactive Pro AV

Interactivity is essential for pleasing customers in today's world, says Visix chief sales officer Trey Hicks.

“This lets you provide a consumer-like experience by letting people choose what they want to see, which gives a lot more satisfaction than just reading messages off the wall.”

The price of installing this kind of technology has fallen significantly in recent years, too, which is why Hicks recommends using it wherever possible.

The inputs have come a long way, too, according to TD Maverick managing director Simon Fagan. Touch control has always been a staple, but it has been refined with pen and finger inputs that work to control and change the interactive environment. Even gesture control is becoming more common.

These trends will only continue in the near future, according to Tiffany Dozier, EVP of channel sales at Premier Mounts. Dozier expects even more customizations to be introduced, increasing interactivity and yielding higher customer retention.

But this is just the start. Randy S. Tritz, partner and director at SM&W Chicago, sees a future where interaction happens without the need for touch or gesture-based controls. In this case, interactive display advertising would recognize when a shopper is intrigued by an advertised product. It would then show more information about the product, displaying it in different colors and styles and, if the shopper still seems engaged, where they can purchase it in the shopping mall.

What Does Interactive AV Look Like Today?

Interactive AV can take many different forms and be introduced into virtually any industry that relies on audiovisual technology.

Interactive AV in Retail

Retail-based, interactive AV works on a number of levels. A shopping center in Portugal named Mar Shopping Algarve is a leading example of this technology in retail. It provides visitors with interactive landscapes such as touch maps and digital displays that respond to body movements.

Digital signage also plays a key role in these environments, says AV Magazine's Zoe Mutter. In fact, there is no static signage at all in Mar Shopping Algarve. Instead, interactive kiosks with LCD screens and multi-touch technology offer both wayfinding and advertising.

Interactivity is one of the most important differences between digital and static signage for Christina Radigan, a managing director at Outdoor Media Group. This is because consumers can click through relevant advertising messages and engage with them on their own time rather than being bombarded by ads.

Interactive AV in the Classroom

Interactive whiteboards and other displays have been transforming classrooms across the world for several years now. Promethean's Alistair Hayward says that the interactive whiteboard has become the hub of a connected classroom.

When they offer so many benefits over traditional whiteboards, it's no wonder why interactive whiteboards are becoming a top choice for schools and teachers. Peerless-AV managing director Keith Dutch agrees. “Interactive touch screens encourage student engagement and collaborative working, and help teachers embrace new technologies and teaching methods.”Interactive AV in Offices

Even the humble office is being upgraded with interactive AV technology to supercharge meetings and increase productivity. Vivitek sales director David Zrihen believes that there are several reasons for this.

“The primary driver is the fact that most of us are using mobile phones and tablet devices. We are very familiar with handling files and objects with the swipe of the finger, as well as the zoom-in, zoom-out pinch functionality.” Zrihen also adds that many manufacturers have released touch-enabled software applications that make touch screens more accessible.

Interactive AV platforms are already available for offices looking to bring interaction into the meeting room. Visualization technology company Barco offers an interactive collaboration platform, which allows content from any device to be shared and interacted with on any device, alongside a touch screen interface. Barco's solution has even been built to integrate with AV over IP technology so that non-networked content can be shared in corporate meetings.  

Using AV Over IP to Facilitate Interactive AV

When it comes to offering interactive AV at scale, AV over IP is essential. As Crestron technology manager Rob Carterexplains, a traditional AV matrix is always limited to a certain amount of inputs and outputs. With single gigabit AV over IP, however, “the AV system can be as large as the network allows; thousands of endpoints can easily be a part of a virtual matrix.”

AV over IP is the perfect facilitator for large interactive AV displays, says Userful CTO Tim Griffin. An ordinary server can deliver the video wall content over a standard gigabit Ethernet network. Best of all, you're not limited to the number of sources or the number of outputs. In other words, a single source can reach hundreds of displays at once, even if they are spread across a large area like a shopping mall or a hotel.

The cost and complexity of creating a network of interactive AV displays using traditional AV cables are enormous. But by leveraging AV over IP, a single ethernet cable can be used to power each device rather than a multitude of cables, says Greg Aradjan of IVCi. Not only that, but maintenance also becomes much simpler and more cost-effective. As points of failure are reduced, troubleshooting is simplified, meaning much-needed interactive displays can be rebooted sooner.

When updates and expansions to interactive displays are required, AV over IP makes the entire process much simpler. As Sensory Technologies explain, content updates can be distributed across the network effortlessly and new hardware can be added with ease.

AV over IP-powered displays are also able to combine multiple types of content at once, such as video, web content, images and text. This a far stretch from traditional AV cables, which can only transfer one piece of content per cable.

The case is clear: if interactive AV is an essential next step for a customer experience-focused business, AV over IP is the only way to facilitate it.

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