The rise of “touchless” A/V

With heightened concern about spreading illness through surface contact, we’re seeing the term “touchless” within the A/V industry.  But what does this mean?  Are we really running our presentations by waving our hands, or with our voices?

Well, possibly yes.  Voice controlled A/V systems are real; see this video from Utah State University  But we’re not seeing widespread acceptance of voice control, and one manufacturer commented to me recently that they’re slowing their marketing efforts due to resistance from customers.  And gesture control?  It’s been part of the user experience in exhibitions and retail for a while, but hasn’t been significant in mainstream A/V.  It’s too early to tell when and if either of these will gain wider currency.

So what then does “touchless” really mean?  Think of it as “touch nothing but my own personal device.”  It’s perhaps a proximity sensor that awakens a display when a user comes near.  It’s a Bluetooth or RFID sensor that detects a user’s smartphone.  It’s a QR code displayed on a touch panel that when scanned, enables room controls on the user’s phone or tablet.  And it’s certainly any of a number of wireless presentation systems such as Apple AirPlay.

But none of us knows where this will go.  Facial recognition is a possibility, and where touch is unavoidable, we’re already being asked to specify equipment that will withstand vigorous cleaning.  And how many of us are re-thinking our habit of specifying touch panels without integrated cameras?