20,000 people packed into T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday, June 7, to watch the hometown Golden Knights take on the Washington Capitals in game five of the Stanley Cup Final. Hours earlier, on the other end of the strip, a crowd size that dwarfed the sea of Knights fans filed into the convention center for InfoComm 2018.

As many people as were clad in Knights and Capitals gear was surpassed by those in lanyards representing companies of all sizes in attendance at the AV industry’s largest annual trade show.

After passing by the DJ booth just beyond the doors, visitors to this year’s show were hit by a clear theme: experience.

AV’s tentacles are now more far reaching than ever, with retailers, restaurants, hotels and sports organizations utilizing this technology to enhance guest experience.

“Pro AV has always been about experience,” Avixa senior director of communication Brad Grimes said. “The shift we’re seeing is the emphasis on experience.”

Grimes noted that AV applications have been utilized by professionals across a wide range of fields to stimulate customers and guests and liven up old practices like shopping.

“One place where an AV experience is a great help is in retail. In retail there has been a lot of hand wringing over recent years about Amazon and online retail sort of taking over, and malls closing down,” Grimes said. “What we’re seeing is a lot of retailers using AV experiences to sort of redefine the brick-and-mortar experience, to make stores more than a place where you just buy stuff but it is where you experience things.”

An focus from vendors on immersion and experience in retail, hospitality and entertainment was evident, from Canon’s PGA TOUR simulator to Epson’s award-winning Moverio augmented reality glasses for drone use.

With technology transforming rapidly, much has changed since InfoComm 2017 and it was exciting to see that AV integrators and professionals are seeing the industry implement their latest products in new ways.

“We are finally getting it. Video is not longer nice to have, it is a necessity to have,” Dr. Ann Earon, an InfoComm speaker said. “I think the fact that everybody is getting to the point now where they don’t look at videoconferencing per se, but all of the collaboration that goes around it. How can I collaborate best with people using my AV, using my IT, using my rooms and my technology?”

The expansive convention center halls were sprawling with booths of all sizes and displays and every niche of the AV industry was covered from entertainment to comprehensive security systems.

No longer is AV simply about who has the brightest lights or biggest showcase though. Some of the most fascinating companies we came across with MarketScale were cloud-based operating systems, simple adapters and plug-ins and small, sleek voice conferencing tools.

Las Vegas may be the capital of neon lights, but InfoComm 2018 showed that AV can be more than a way of attracting customers with bright glares. Now it is about connecting people through experience, giving them a way to change their environment without moving their feet and allowing for seamless connectivity, whether that be to another office boardroom or the tee box at a favorite golf course.