Walk into a company run by today’s digital natives and you may find a space characterized not only by its floor plan but also by its adaptability. Think mobile devices everywhere, but no assigned desks; collaboration technology throughout. When people meet, it’s via video — and not just in dedicated executive suites, but everywhere. Some workers are collaborating in person; others are patching in from distant offices and interacting with the same content and tools. Although this “agile office” is not yet mainstream, it’s on the horizon, due in part to the ubiquity and increasing usability of audiovisual (AV) solutions, such as videoconferencing and shared computing interfaces. A similar evolution is happening in classrooms, where learning spaces are being reimagined to foster better interaction and group work. Technology is changing the way we think about work and life, which, in turn, impacts the places where we work and live. We’re on the cusp of dramatic change, and AV is playing a pivotal role.
Workspace Design: Ready for Anything
Corporations are the biggest purchasers of AV solutions. One important reason: Technology-equipped companies are better positioned to recruit and retain top talent so a growing faction of corporates is attempting to create more innovation by bringing employees back to home base. AV technology implementation is the way for companies striving to make the office ‘the place to be,’ in part by improving user experiences.” Such environments can empower employees to work in ways that match their individual strengths. Technology-rich, multipurpose spaces can also breathe new life into stagnant practices and foster more efficient workflows.
With the growing demand for flexible AV in the workplace comes the need for flexible office designs. Research shows that “Coworking has become an essential element to navigate constant change. In 2005, tech workplaces dedicated 89 percent of space to individual desks. Today it’s 25 percent, and by 2025, individual desks may not exist.” These open, collaborative workspaces have their upside, but they also present challenges. A recent Harvard study found that open-plan offices can hurt productivity because workers feel they lack privacy — being able to hear everyone all the time tends to be either distracting or cause enough to stop talking altogether and actually decrease collaboration. Audiovisual solutions can play a critical role in turning the modern, open workspace into a productive space. AV ecosystems, combine audio and video components — as well as non-technical physical elements — to create offices that are more conducive to collaboration. Imagine video displays that appear to be windows or skylights, sounds of nature — specifically flowing water — playing through hidden speakers, and soothingly lit, modular waterfalls. It’s not just the sound of water that employees find calming; actually seeing water — live or on-display — helps complete the cognitive circuit and creates a peaceful environment that reduces the distractions of an open office.
At some companies, the AV experience starts where people often get their first impression: the lobby. Lobby experiences can help energize employees and engage visitors.
Upon entering the lobby, employees, partners, and visitors are immediately greeted by technology that tells the company’s story. Custom-fabricated LED columns and interactive touchscreens display content that intermingles with the environment.
Collaboration technologies, then, are the glue that holds together this energized, mobile, tech-savvy workforce. A Video-based collaboration is expected to improve connection and communication among employees in the workplace and remote colleagues, clients, and consultants But for all the technical acumen of today’s workers, and their aversion to outdated business practices, collaborative audiovisual solutions deployed in a modern office must be easy to use. There’s no time for onerous bug fixes or downtime. Employees already have many screens in their lives. They expect multi-screen, dynamic workspaces that they can enter instantly for visual immersion. And the AV implemented today must be agile enough to support the next great killer app or workgroup paradigm, whatever it might be. Companies are giving clients the ability to brainstorm business solutions with the staff quickly and efficiently through a combination of AV systems, proprietary software, and data. Software that lets users edit and manipulate documents, videos, graphics, and more on multiple displays, plus a matrix of large touchscreens, form the foundation. This Space also includes cameras for videoconferencing and microphones embedded in the room’s ceiling to provide pickup coverage for all seats. The company put additional video walls in their offices so that remote participants could also join sessions.
“Studies suggest that those organizations that successfully nurture an innovation culture realize increased profit compared to their peers. Unfortunately, many growing companies lack the capability, including access to the latest tools and frameworks and the trained professionals to implement them, to create breakthrough growth. This helps clients build a renewed business culture that’s fast and nimble, seizing opportunities before the competition, to get ahead and stay there. Some teams are now 60 percent faster at solving problems, and from an operations standpoint, they have become 45 percent more cost-efficient since implementing the audiovisual solution. And as good as the remote-collaboration capabilities have been, companies have found that design and strategy work is especially effective when participants are physically present where they can interact with the AV collaboration tools.
Now with the workspace allowing to collaborate in real-time with consultants and clients in different locations, the meetings become more productive, and the team becomes more aligned with clients.
The challenge in all this? Integrating AV and collaboration into workspaces so that users can be productive. A regular worker wants to be able to use elevated technologies without extensive training. This gives rise to more intelligent automation” and standards that can help employees move from room to room or system to system “without having to relearn the user interface.”
Creative Synthesis and the New Learning Space
Like the corporate campus, the college campus is ripe for innovation. From the AV clubs of yore to 4K displays in anatomy labs, audiovisual solutions and education are inextricably linked. Makerspaces, “sandboxes” with interactive displays, and interdisciplinary ideation spaces are becoming more common. However, active learning is still the dominant learning space trend.
Active-learning rooms can accommodate small groups, host break-out sessions, and support sharing ideas in multimodal, meaningful ways. Regardless of the wired or wireless audiovisual presentation systems, everyone seems to be getting into the collaboration dynamic now.
Active learning means giving students more agency in the process as well as meeting many of the students’ needs now that were previously unmet. Consequently, some students learn better in smaller groups — at more of a personal and interactive level than in large lecture halls spaces.
Active learning gives students more purchase, and there are multiple pedagogical models that can be enhanced with AV and customized solutions can be provided for any modality of pedagogy.
Universities are using technology to develop an environment designed to ignite student curiosity and encourage cross-disciplinary practices and energizing interior design and the latest collaborative technologies help foster innovation.
Virtual reality (VR) labs are replacing obsolete spaces, such as photo development rooms. The launch of affordable, wireless systems is acting as a disruptor to help democratize the emerging technology. Now with VR becoming more affordable and manageable, it can put into the classrooms.
The real value of VR is realized when the technology is embedded in a curriculum, encouraging students to think, learn, and solve problems in new and experiential ways.
Video collaboration and online lecture capture technologies make classrooms more than a physical space in a building. Designed properly to maximize acoustics, lighting, and sightlines, and integrated with the latest AV conferencing solutions, the campus space extends to rooms of students and lecturers all over the world.
Whatever new technology impacts learning-space design, it needs to be tied to a genuine student need for the actual benefit to be realized and sensible investments in audiovisual solutions can dramatically elevate the classroom experience.
Engaging Experiences — in Public
And after a day of work or learning, people continue to move through spaces imbued with new audiovisual technology. Hospitality brands — hotels and restaurants — are adding AV to their designs to reflect the digital lifestyles of their guests and meet expectations for a technology-driven experience. Malls, transportation centers, public spaces — all are undergoing a digital evolution, integrating audiovisual solutions to create destinations.
It is an intricate combination of the brand’s expression in the physical environment and interactive digital media plays a role in enhancing experiences.
With advances in AV technology, virtually any type of space can be transformed to create new experiences and facilitate better productivity, learning, enjoyment, and more as the influence of a digitally-mediated culture on an emerging generation will result in vastly different expectations.