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19 May 2016

ITEC 2016: Barco Sounds Like a Good Idea

Barco’s booth at this year’s ITEC exhibition in London featured new and powerful projection equipment – as expected – but there was a new wrinkle in evidence, not immediately obvious until a closer look was taken. Or, more accurately, till a more attentive ear was turned to what was going on in the demonstration.

The company’s new F90-4K13 projector took pride of place on the booth – and deservedly so. Providing 11,800 lumens , 4K UHD resolution, a laser phosphorous light source and advanced cooling design, the F90 offers up to 40,000 hours operating time without the need for bulb changes, thereby providing for significant cost savings.

But it is in the area of new capability that the demonstration won this reporter over. Sound has long been a feature of systems in use in the entertainment industry – indeed, it is a huge component of the continuing development of that industry. But the incorporation of sound into projection and visualisation systems for training and simulation is new and, as Olaf Stepputat, Director of Barco Audio Technologies, points out, “it really is rocket science.”

Not only does the F-90 on display provide an immersive and immediately engaging sound picture to complement the displayed simulation, it does so in a far more focused and intelligent manner. Rather than channel based sound, the system provides for object based sound. This lends itself immediately to a far more intuitive sound picture for the trainee, reducing external interference that might lead to a lack of belief in the simulation on offer and therefore potential negative training.

Sound has been a neglected component of the offering in this industry and we have leveraged the Barco acquisition of IOSONO in 2014 to find and capture the ‘sweet spot’ in terms of time and opportunity,” says Stepputat. The IOSONO Core technology, which has been exploited to develop the prototype on display at ITEC this week, provides the user with accurate, flexible and infinitely variable sound effects that provide for what Stepputat calls, “a spatial impression of sound.” This increases realism for the trainee audience and also means the system can be independent of playback systems.

Sound adds a new dimension to the capabilities the Barco projector range has traditionally offered and will undoubtedly add in no small way to the improved situational awareness of trainees using systems that incorporate it. No innovation, of course, comes without a price, but Stepputat is adamant there i,s “no great sticker shock,” associated with the enhanced capability on offer. “The real challenge is to integrate this capability into the legacy systems out there,” he says, adding that the move from the current prototype to limited production, using the Diamond Visionics image generator, could be achieved well before the end of the year.

Sounds like a good idea.

Tim Mahon, ITEC