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Beyond Pro AV

In a competitive commercial environment, where grabbing attention leads to sales dollars, businesses will find new ways to accomplish this.

Running down the Las Vegas strip the other day, I experienced strong evidence of the ongoing fusion between “A” and “V.” The huge LED marquees are now making sound. It seems that blindingly bright, 60-foot electronic signage is no longer enough to grab people's attention; you now have to scream at them like a digital carnival barker, too.

This shouldn't be surprising, since research proves that we become desensitized to any repetitive stimulus over time. In a competitive commercial environment, where grabbing attention leads to sales dollars, businesses will do anything to find new ways to accomplish this. Maybe it's time to move beyond the limitations of pro AV.

Now that we have the auditory and visual senses under control — or assault, some may say —why stop there? Some content providers haven't. Many of us are old enough to remember the 1974 disaster film, “Earthquake,” featuring Sensurround. Universal Studios' sound engineers knew that exciting the sense of touch could create a memorable effect. This resulted in the fourth highest grossing box office take that year. Today, low-frequency actuators are more common in specialty cinema and home-video gaming applications.

Even before touch was added to the sensory smorgasbord, as far back as the late 1950s and early 1960s, filmmakers experimented with processes such as Aroma-Rama and Smell-O-Vision in attempts to enhance the movie-going experience. These systems injected different smells into a movie theater when triggered by cue from the film's soundtrack. Many felt it was a short-lived fad, but guess what? It's back. AV content provider DMX has resurrected the concept for commercial environments, citing research that humans are more than 100 times more likely to remember something that they smell over something that they only see or hear — done tastefully, of course.

Speaking of taste, can that be far behind? It's a well-known fact that the senses of taste and smell are closely related, so it seems this should be easily accomplished. Imagine the impact that this sensory experience will have on the restaurant industry.

Some estimates suggest that Americans are exposed to more than 3,000 advertisements daily. How can a business get its message through that kind of clutter? Yet few, if any, of these 3,000 messages address more than the A and V perceptual senses. AV systems integrators should seriously explore some of these back-to-the-future technologies. After all, we're not really in the AV business, we're in the business-communications business. Remember the lessons of marketing myopia provided by the buggy whip, railroad, and (more recently) film industries. There is no reason we should limit ourselves to offering sensory experiences for just two of our five senses. Maybe it's time for a new acronym. Pro AVSTT, anyone?

Mark Mayfield

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