December 19, 2018 by Kirsten Nelson
Plantronics Office
Biophilic design at Plantronics Office

The “human factors” conversation definitely established a firm foothold among AV practitioners in 2018. We’re definitely an experience industry now, which is good, because people really do value a more personal connection with technology.

Actually, the world at large seems to be obsessed with “experiences” right now, so this timely reframing of our design viewpoint will definitely resonate with those who use our technology.

So which human factors will be most important to AV experience design in 2019?

Data vs. Delight

“You can have all the data in the world, but if the experience isn't fun and engaging, it doesn't matter.” That was one of my favorite ideas that arose out of an InfoComm 2018 Center Stage talk by Manolo Almagro of Q Division and David Title of Bravo Media. Keep this in mind when your clients ask about analytics. Yes, numbers matter, but try to remember what makes people truly smile in those selfies they’re taking in front of your video wall. 

Biophilic Design

It turns out that the whole “love of nature” approach to design originated around the same time those millennials were being born. In the 1980s, “biophilic design” became a thing, and suddenly it was chic to add natural elements to manmade structures (some might argue that art deco design also did this, and also, life in general did this, ever since the first house plants were brought indoors). But anyway, I learned more about biophilic design when I visited Plantronics, and it’s a trend that often requires a bit of AV technology to complete the scene.

Happenstance Collaboration

You’re going to want to encourage clients to mix things up, put collaborative and conferencing technology in weird places like cafeterias and lounges. Because humans do their best innovating when they happen to bump into each other. Particularly if food and caffeine are around. Just ask Steve Jobs. Or check out WeWork or Rock Lititz. Or all those AV integration firms and manufacturers that already knew about this idea, and added video chat portals to their break rooms ages ago.

Wellness Infusion

Offices of OneButton feature circadian lighting

“This wellness thing is going to be huge,” I though while sipping kombucha on a sofa bathed in carefully calibrated circadian light at the Brooklyn offices of OneButton. But no, really, wellness design is all about great acoustics, comforting and accessible sound and video, and super high-tech lighting design. Hotels and healthcare facilities are already doing it, offices are looking at it, and who knows where it will go next. Just make sure you’re there with something organic to offer your new client.

Entertainment is Still Communal

There’s a reason we go to concerts, sporting events, museums, restaurants and yes, sometimes even brick-and-mortar retail stores. Humans like to congregate, particularly if there is great sound, stunning visuals, accommodating acoustics and maybe even some Augmented Reality (yes, we’ll be accommodating for that in the built environment soon). This is something I thought about when I was talking to Grant Reynolds of Delicious Hospitality, who told me during a tour of the Legacy Records restaurant, “The music is the thread that really is the one thing that everybody is sharing at every single moment across the whole room. The thing that can pull it all together is the atmosphere, and the atmosphere is defined by people, design, music and good lighting.”

Robots Get Creative

I’m just going to let the mind-blowing Center Stage speaker Guvenc Ozel, a founder of UCLA’s IDEAS campus, take this one: “Architecture is currently at the cusp of a paradigm shift, where the environments we occupy are becoming increasingly virtual and mobile. Considered as an ecosystem of technologies rather than a tectonic assemblage of materials, architecture is shifting toward a non-static and non-physical form of experience. This opens up the potential for it to be considered as a transdisciplinary medium that merges the worlds of fabrication, gaming and media design.” Or as he said a bit more casually to me when I visited IDEAS this past summer: “The near-future physical environment going to include humans, robots, virtual beings. What will that environment be like?” Well, it’s going to be filled with technology, and hopefully we’ll be building it. 

Interactive and Immersive

On that note, Amahl Hazelton of Moment Factory also predicated a new kind of design thinking for our industry: “Now that we’re into an era of multimedia environments, how can we go from what we’ve known as the human experience of physical space, the walls and landscape and buildings around us, which ideally are intended to last for hundreds of years exactly as the design the architect imposed on site — how can we take this now into a multimedia environment where it goes from being a passive spectator being bombarded by random, uncurated content over which they have no influence or control, to creating responsive environments where we’re not just spectators, but potentially influencers or actors in our environment. That’s a huge part of the trend that we’re seeing driving multimedia these days.”

So that about sums it up. Buildings are going multimedia, and we need to remember how to design for the humans who will be experiencing them. Plenty of work to do in the new year ahead!

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.