monitors move U of C Hospitals conference room into the 21st Century
a difference a century makes. 100 years ago the steam locomotive was
the fastest way to go cross country, the Wright Brothers were still
working on their flying machine, the magic lantern was cutting-edge
projection technology, and University of Chicago trustees were still
considering whether to establish a medical school. Today the University
of Chicago Hospitals and Health System is a city-wide network that admits
over 30,000 patients a year and its new boardroom boasts one of the
city's most advanced presentation systems.
new boardroom was built at the behest of Hospitals President Ralph Muller,
whose board of directors had been transient since giving up its old
conference room to office space a couple of years ago. Muller finally
decided it was time for a new home, and he put out the call for a state
of the art facility to be ready for board meetings in the year 2000.
Because the old conference room had little or no built-in technology,
conceiving and designing the new room from scratch was a challenge.
The task fell to interior projects manager Trish Nagy. "We wanted something
professional, but not ostentatious. We had to be conscious of comfort,
but people also needed to be able to see what was happening." Nagy outsourced
the design of the room to an audio-visual consultant. United Visual
provided the technology, installed it and trained hospital staff to
The three dozen members of
the U of C board of directors, along with hospital administrators and
other personnel, now find themselves seated in high backed leather chairs,
at a very long custom-designed cherry table. But the most striking feature
of the room is the presence of as many as 36 multi-media monitors installed
into the conference table itself-usually one for every two people seated
Installing multiple monitors
into conference rooms is an idea that's coming of age. The U of C
Hospitals boardroom, built in an existing facility, could have been
a problematic space: it's a room that's much longer than it is wide,
not dividable into smaller sections, with a somewhat low ceiling that
limits the use of a projection screen large enough for everyone to
see. Like most executives, hospital board members are finding an increased
need to view computer information and to do business long-distance
via videoconferencing. In training rooms or auditoriums where it's
impossible to install a large-enough screen up front, designers often
will put a couple of large monitors farther back for the use of those
in the back of the room. But in a boardroom a single conversation
takes place around a single table and everyone needs equal access
to information. In this kind of configuration, it would be difficult
to find space for additional large monitors and very difficult to
put them where everyone could see clearly.
The solution was to place
individual monitors along the whole length of the U of C conference
table. Now everyone can read small text and fine-lined schematics
on screens only two feet in front of them.
United Visual's Doug
Carnell, who worked on the project, steered Nagy towards Mitsubishi
LCD monitors for three basic reasons: price, size limitations, and
technical requirements. "The original specs called for basic CRT style
monitors, which are bulky and deep," says United's health care specialist,
Jim Mergens. "The mere fact that the Mitsubishi monitors have a slim,
narrow profile made them much easier to install. They can also be
taken down and stored easily since they're so lightweight." The smaller
monitors were also much more affordable, certainly a consideration
when you're buying three dozen of them.
The University Hospital's board meets only quarterly
and conferences can be quite lengthy. Comfort, convenience and versatility
were all major considerations. Presenters can control all media-laptop
computer with hospital intranet hookup, VCR, DVD player, document camera,
or videoconferencing-from the touch
panel at the podium. The
two Sony cabinet monitors at the front provide an alternative to the
tabletops when the meeting is small. "The audio/visual is very user-friendly,"
says Nagy. "There's a sense of completeness to the room. I think it's
very well rounded and comfortable, but practical as well. It really
is our premier room."
"Aesthetically it's a great
room," says Mergens. "It's all Panja touchpanel controlled and it's
the latest model. The cliche might be, if you can use an ATM machine,
you can use this room, but actually it's easier. It's important that
conference room technology be easy to understand, especially if a
room is used by a variety of organizations or presenters."
It was widely believed
that we stood on the doorstep of a technological revolution at the
beginning of the 20th century. The airplane, the automobile, the movies,
the telephone, the light bulb all lent credence to that belief. Just
as the University of Chicago Hospitals now places itself at the forefront
of medicine, the new conference room stands out as a sleek, modern
testament to the newest trend in audio-visual enhancements. As we
move farther and farther away from the bright arc of the magic lantern,
who knows where the 21st Century will take us?