Schindler offers vision of the future

Lift manufacturer Schindler’s new immersive showroom highlights the cities of the future. Limitations of space forced the design team to get very creative. Paul Milligan speaks to those involved.

Most showrooms tell you about the company then bombard you with product info. The new PORT Innovation Lab from elevator and escalator manufacturer Schindler in Lucerne, Switzerland, is a world away from that. Designed and built by the company’s own engineers and long-term partners, this impressive new showroom is themed around the company’s philosophy of transit intelligence and visions of future cities.


It features a 11-metre transparent dome where the projection is visible from inside and also from the outside, and a 20-metre long curved projection screen on rails that moves several times during a show from one room to another. The new showroom is housed in the Schindler factory hall after the company decided to reuse the area. The overall campus is also home to the Schindler Management and the R&D department. So if it’s not just showing products then what is the purpose of the showroom? “We are an elevator company, we do elevators, but what transit intelligence means for us is what
tech companies from Silicon Valley do for taxis, they manage to use them in a very intelligent way. And it’s like what we do in a building, we use multiple escalators, elevators and doors, to create mobility from A to B inside a building,” says Marc Fonseka, visualisation specialist, Schindler. “It’s a virtual experience so it can be reshaped anytime, and you don't have to rebuild half the showroom again. If you want
to change something it's just software,” adds Roger Lingg, senior AV interaction specialist, Schindler.

So why not employ an AV company to do all the design work? “We tried to do it in a really nice, emotional, immersive way. We didn’t go to an AV company because they wouldn’t have deep knowledge about the product and they’re not connected with the R&D team, that’s so hard for an AV company, that's why we do a lot of this internally rather than just asking them to make us a showroom,” says Lingg. The installation of the showroom was performed by local systems integrator B+T Bild + Ton.

Concept design for this project began at the end of 2018, with construction beginning in
August 2019, the first guests to get the tour were in January 2020. From the outset the concept was more important than the technology chosen for it. “The main focus for this environment, I don't really like the word showroom because everybody has a showroom nowadays, is that the technology behind it should not be visible,” says Fonseka. “You should not see the screen, or that it is a wall or that this piece can move, or that this can project images, you shouldn't see the projector or hear it, you should just feel the experience.”


Visitors to the PORT Innovation Lab (anyone from real estate investors to students from all over the world) come as individuals or groups, the space can accommodate up to 99 people at once. The showroom has several parts to it, you enter through a tunnel into the lounge, next is a cinema area followed by an exhibition area. You then go back to the cinema area with the transparent dome exposed during the unveiling at the back of the space. Visitors enter the showroom through three-metre-high rotating doors and are met by a huge 19.7x5.55-metre 32:9 screen showing a 12-minute movie on four levels of innovation. The screen is served by three 30,000 lumens Panasonic PT-RQ32K laser projectors, mounted side-by-side in the ceiling. Audio throughout the showroom is provided by JBL loudspeakers, Crown amplifiers, Shure mics, all run on Dante using a BSS DSP. Control throughout the showroom is by Crestron.

After the movie finishes the screen moves from right to left into another room. “They don't really realise it's moving because when we move the screen we also pull the curtain at the back so the curtain closes in front of the screen. As soon as people move into the next area the screen magically appears on the other side. Nobody realises it's the same screen, and we use the same screen a second time to make product demonstrations,” explains Fonseka.

The next step is a 30-minute live demonstration of Schindler’s PORT Technology interacting with the virtual environment on the curved screen, driven by three Epson projectors. What then follows back in the cinema area is ‘Dystopia’, an 11-minute film shown on the curved screen followed by the finale called ‘Utopia’ which runs for 12-minutes in the dome.

Why did they decide on using a curved screen rather than (a far easier to install) flat surface? “If you want to be inside the picture the best thing you can do is make sure you can’t see an edge. Secondly, we were also forced into this direction because the space was very limited in this area available to us. We wanted double the size of the room (we got), so we were forced to make walls move and the screens move instead so we could incorporate the whole content and tell the story we wanted to tell. If you corner someone, they always become creative right? So, it's not always a bad thing. We had to play around with how we would use one screen in different locations,” says Fonseka.


Why did Schindler again go down the more difficult route of using a dome instead of a traditional cinema screen approach? “There is actually no other way to bring a group of 50 people into a virtual environment without a dome,” says Fonseka (all visitors inside the dome are sat in cinema-style seating), “It's the only medium where you sit inside the screen with a group. There was never a point we weren’t going to use a dome because we believe it's emotional, it’s something people wouldn't expect in a corporate world, but would expect in Europa Park or Disneyland.”

But as with everything else in this project, this is not simply your normal everyday dome, this one is transparent, Fonseka explains how it works; “The outer skin of a normal dome is a triangle-like spherical structure which you don’t see through. What we have managed here is to have a transparent film providing the vacuum we need between the outer and the inner skin to bring the screen into position. With the transparency and back projection screen, you can see the picture inside and outside.” It is clearly a work that gives them enormous pride, as this quote from Lingg illustrates; “When the big curved screen moves away all you see first is just darkness. Then unexpectedly you just see this wonderful Earth coming out of the floor and it looks amazing.”

The curved screen proved to be the biggest challenge of the whole project agreed Lingg and Fonseka, for several reasons. “To find someone who can provide a custom-built 32:9 screen like this, that can move, and has sensors built-in for safety took months to find,” says Lingg. “The biggest challenge was to have the huge, heavy screen lined up absolutely perfectly with three projectors all running edge-blending. We are also projecting when the screen is changing location, so due to alignment constraints the projected picture is not allowed go back and forth. The first question we asked ourselves when drew it on paper for the very first time was whether it was possible to build it with a small tolerance, so we don't have a problem during the show falling out of alignment.”

The shows are all run by the same member of staff, who receives notifications on an
iPad if something is unusual or has gone offline or cannot communicate correctly. She will get messages if the temperature is too high from the projectors, and using the iPad she can remotely eliminate errors during the show, do a software restart, restart the PCs, restart power etc.

The overriding feeling from the new PORT Innovation Lab is a glimpse into the future, it’s not about selling products as a traditional showroom would, it’s about convincing visitors this company is an ideal partner with which to move into the future with. They are bold aims, but based on the level of execution here, who would argue Schindler hasn’t met those aims?


BSS BLU-806, BLU-50, BLU-DAN audio processors
Crown DCI-4/300DA, CTS2000, CTS1200, CTS600 amplifiers
JBL AM5212/95, AC1826, AC16, Control 24C, ASB6118 loudspeakers
Shure MX202WC overhead mics, UA844 antenna system, ULX-D4D wireless receiver


Crestron DM NVX 352 AVoIP encoder/decoder, AV3 control processor, DM-MD6x6 switcher, TSW-760 touchscreen
Epson EB-Z10005, EB-G6250W projectors
Panasonic PT-RQ32K, PT-RZ670LBE projctors
Screenberry Media Server

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