Lemon Squeezy

August 18, 2022

While meeting with an integrator the other day, we were talking about an upcoming project at a medium-sized business. They needed a hybrid system for a tech company’s all-hands space that also happened to double as a lunchroom/bar area. The main request from said integrator was ease of use. They wanted something easy to install and configure.

The previous paragraph is 100% fiction. This never happened. It has never happened in the history of commercial integration. I didn’t happen with the oven in my house. It didn’t happen with the air conditioner in my office. It has never happened ever. Never. It didn’t happen with the wind turbines in Yucca Valley. It didn’t happen with the Hoover Dam. It didn’t happen. Nobody ever said, “that is perfect for the customer, but it’s just too hard for us.”

It’s in the very name of the profession – integrator. These talented folks are not called “delivery servicers” or “box-drop-offers”. These skilled artisans design and install integrated systems. They are the coolest part of AV because they take a bunch of things that don’t work well together and make them work well together. These are the folks who cook up the very idea of BYOD or mix-minus.

So, why do we keep seeing product marketing with easy buttons? Who are the folks complaining that AV is too hard for people to install and configure? For answers, I decided to contact a place chock-full of smart people – Stanford University. I called my buddy Sean Kennedy, director of audiovisual design and engineering at Stanford. He will know. He is smart.

“Hey, Sean,” I asked, “are all the people that work at Stanford dumb?”

I didn’t really ask that. But I did ask him what he thought about self-configuring AV products.

“We are constantly pushing these devices to their limits,” says Kennedy. “In our case, we are always looking for increases in functionality. We are here to improve the AV experience, not just achieve the status quo.” Kennedy went on to explain that not every institution has the need or the resources for his level of innovation, and that yeah, sure, some could want a button that says, “do the AV stuff”. In the end, Kennedy couldn’t identify anyone who thinks that way. Nobody we know is looking for a shortcut – everybody in AV is here because we get to be creative and design cool stuff.

So why do manufacturers continue to promote “simple”? To me, this could seem a little threatening to those that live in the technical part of the AV world – aka me! I don’t need or want easy. I’m like Sean. I want to see what this stuff can really do. If customers just click and something good enough, I will be bagging groceries soon, or worse yet, writing about groceries.

When I reached out to one of my confidential sources deep on the inside of an AV technology manufacturer, he or she assured me that “as we dumb down some parts of AV, it will free up the brilliant people to figure out new stuff with AV that we have yet to consider.”

So, maybe your writer here is just a little paranoid and doesn’t want to be replaced with a setup wizard and YouTube video. Maybe the AV factories are not all out to get me! Maybe they just want to inspire me to find crazier ways to use equipment… Yeah, that’s it.

Or maybe the robots are going to kill us all.

It’s one or the other.