June 13, 2018 by Kirsten Nelson

InfoComm 2018 Center StageMy theme song for InfoComm 2018 in Las Vegas was “The Best is Yet to Come,” sung by none other than the original desert oasis scene-maker, Frank Sinatra. Based on the many images of Frank that decorate even the hippest new hotels on the strip, the guy was definitely one of the best experience designers in history. He knew how to create atmosphere, he knew how to connect with audiences and he was notoriously finicky about his sound and image.

With those talents, Frank would have fit right in at InfoComm. And if he happened to sit in for some of this year’s thought-provoking, life-affirming, career-defining Center Stage sessions, no doubt he would have leapt on stage, grabbed a mic and sung, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

That was the vibe we were going for with the Center Stage program this year, and I’m proud to say that we did inspire many to think about their present-tense work in a future-tense way.

The dialogue format for Center Stage is carefully calibrated to bring new perspective to the many trends prompting change in our industry right now. This year’s presenter pairings provided an amplified version of the way we’re looking at our work now. How are live sound, event and stadium design evolving as artists, brands and athletic teams seek to get closer to audiences? How will VR and AR change experiences in classrooms, museums, boardrooms, music venues and retail? What will the user interface look (and sound) like when the room itself is one big adaptive audiovisual experience?

InfoComm 2018 Center Stage Cortney Harding and Jameson Detweiler
Cortney Harding, Founder - Friends with Holograms and
Jameson Detweiler, Co-Founder & CEO - Fantasmo
discuss "The Future of AR in Immersive Experiences"

The 55 speakers that we brought to Center Stage were representative of the expanding relevance of our industry today. To further the conversation, we invited architects, end-users, VR and AR developers, wearable technologies creators, neuroscientists, voice interface curators and one major music producer on stage to new possibilities in audiovisual integrated experience design.

Together, this talented lineup of creative and technical mind-blowers revealed some key motifs to the work ahead of us:

• The shape of everything is changing - Hotel room decor will adapt according to your preference, light fixtures will move with you, tiny robots will roll with suggestions as you select from a table menu, and club sound and lighting systems will change the entire dynamic of a room with kinetic show-stoppers like the chandelier at the Omnia.

• Connection is everything - Better spatial audio in conference rooms, immersive audio in new media, personalized digital signage content, more effective project management, and those super-cool wearables are all about enhanced engagement.

• We’re getting back to the audience - Advanced staging and kinetic technology for touring productions places musicians and performers closer to the crowds, analytics are helping to deliver more relevant content, and human-centric design is bringing the fun and passion back to the shows and content we produce.

InfoComm 2018 Center Stage Haluk Kulin and Sergei Gepshtein
Haluk Kulin, SVP, Strategy and Data - FreemanXP and Sergei Sepshtein,
Director, Collaboratory for Adaptive Sensory Technologies- Salk Institute
for Biological Studies discuss "Experience Capture Technology for
Improving Event Design"

• It’s all about the music - Watching Alesia Hendley and Will Curran rapidly fill seats as they ran onto stage to the tune of Skrillex, hearing Lewis Lee deliver probably the first-ever freestyle rap performance on a major InfoComm stage, seeing how Paul Blair (professionally known as DJ White Shadow) and Pablo Henderson giddily enhance the W Hotels brand with serious sound offerings for touring artists,and learning how National Sawdust is changing venue design for new artists… well. It was the intellectual equivalent of when the production crew cued up “Thunderstruck” for one of the final sessions.

People were psyched, speakers were swarmed with interested new business partners, and that enthusiasm may best have been captured by Blair when he said something to which many in our industry can relate: “Chase what you think is fun, and the money and success will follow.”

That balance of excitement and opportunity is what places Center Stage on the threshold of our industry’s present and future. We’ve always loved what we do, and as our expertise becomes more vital to the ever-expanding integrated life, chasing what we love will bring new fulfillment. Like Frank said, “The best is yet to come.”

About Kirsten Nelson

Kirsten Nelson has written about audio, video and experience design in all its permutations for more than 20 years. As a writer and content developer for AVIXA, Kirsten connects stories, people and technology through a variety of media. She also directs program content for the TIDE Conference and Technology Innovation Stage at InfoComm. For three years, she also created conversations around emerging media and experiential design at InfoComm's Center Stage. Prior to that, Kirsten was the editor of SCN magazine for 17 years.