TAIT Talks Presents Jim Love, VP of Engineering and Head of Navigator at TAIT

VP of Engineering + Head of Navigator at TAIT

For much of the past decade, live events have evolved into immersive experiences that are ideal for audience interaction.  Throughout the last 40 years, TAIT has been the leader in advancing these types of experiences and have done so with a dynamic, talented team of designers, engineers, fabricators and integrators. But, the secret sauce is our proprietary technology, TAIT Navigator Automation Platform.

As live event production continues to thrive, so does Navigator; and Kierston Powell, Marketing Coordinator at TAIT is here today with Jim Love, VP of Engineering and Head of Navigator, to discuss the evolution of TAIT Navigator, its hardware and software, and its newest software product, iQ powered by NAVIGATOR.

KP: Hi Jim! Good to see you here today. I think the last time I saw you was at the iQ powered by NAVIGATOR product launch at LDi in Vegas.

Jim: Ah yes, LDi was such a success! We had a great time networking with our clients at our VIP happy hour and giving attendees LIVE demos of our newest entertainment automation software, iQ powered by NAVIGATOR.

KP: We did have a blast! But, before we get into too much detail about iQ, let’s talk about Navigator.

Jim: Absolutely!

KP: Great! So, there may be a few readers who are unfamiliar with Navigator, can you explain what Navigator is?

Jim: Sure. In a nutshell, Navigator is a powerful entertainment automation platform that maximizes the creative potential for live events. The platform consists of hardware and software products that are designed to control any interface, system or device, from industrial-factory robots to light and sound desks, to winches and pulleys that fly performers through the air to create the most dynamic live event experiences.

KP: So it’s capable of more than just controlling stage machinery, then?

Jim: Yes! It operates more than just stage machinery like winches and lifts. By adding specific products to the platform, we can provide show control to coordinate all the technical aspects of a project.

KP: Ok. So, regarding Navigator products, can you explain the difference between hardware products vs. software products?

Jim: Of course! So, you can think of hardware products as the physical products on the backend which run Navigator’s software products on the front end. For example, our operator consoles, such as Antares, Atlas, Centauri, Compass, or Polaris, would be considered hardware products as well as the hardware products running on the backend such as NAV ESA, NAV Server, NAV Point, or the Estop Pendant. Hardware products are used to control the individual pieces of equipment as well as act as the platform’s safety system. On the other hand, Navigator software products include the Navigator GUI and iQ powered by NAVIGATOR. Software products allow users to interact with the platform while the hardware products are doing all of the behind the scenes work such as keeping the system safe, moving the motors, or controlling the hydraulics. Make sense?

KP: Yes. Do you have to be an automation genius to be able to use the Navigator Platform?

Jim: You certainly do not have to be an automation genius to run Navigator. In fact, Navigator is used in so many facets of entertainment and each facet uses the platform’s capabilities in a different way. For example, a Navigator user could be a high school student on summer break operating a ride at a theme park. On the flip side, it can also be used by the smartest automation tech in the business who is operating the most complex show in a very short amount of time. Needless to say, the prospective Navigator user varies depending on how they intend to use the platform, but at TAIT, we strive to simplify the Navigator automation platform as much as possible so that all roadies, operators, programmers or commissioners can operate it.

KP: Alright, so, different users have different titles. Can you explain the difference between operators, programmers and commissioners?

Jim: Sure thing! We like to classify Navigator users into three categories: operators, programmers, and commissioners. Operators are the people who are actually running the show at the time of the event. Programmers are the people who configure the system and code the cues for the show during rehearsals. Commissioners are the people who set up all of the Navigator equipment (i.e. hardware and software products) and ensure that all gear is communicating properly with each other and ready to be used safely. This process actually happens in reverse order though. Typically, the first step is to commission the Navigator platform to the show’s creative needs. After the show is commissioned, the system is handed off to programmers to program and cue the show during rehearsals with the intentions to hand off the system to the operators who are operating the show in real time. In the TAIT world, our controls integrators act as commissioners who set up the gear specific to our client’s needs. Typically a controls integrator from TAIT will attend rehearsals to ensure that the client’s programmers are cueing the show correctly and that the Navigator platform is ready for the automation operator to hit ‘go’ on opening night. Although, we do have clients who purchase our Navigator hardware and software products and then commission, program and operate the system themselves.

KP: So what makes Navigator unique?

Jim: Something that is especially unique about the Navigator Platform is that it has continued to evolve to be more flexible, more reliable, more compatible and more powerful than ever before. We have spent the past decade building Navigator from the ground up. Our Boulder, CO office, aka the epicenter of all things Navigator, is constantly working on writing new modules, new code and new interfaces so that Navigator can adapt to the creative demands of a live event as fast as possible, be compatible to sync with any device or show component and to truly be the ‘secret’ ingredient to creating the most spectacular live event experience. The core principles of Navigator have remained the same but it’s a modular platform; so, we can build all sorts of modules on top of what it already knows. Navigator’s internal learning system is so smart that it has remembered every piece of code, module or algorithm that we have ever asked it to do dating back to its first use in time.

KP: That’s fantastic. So what’s next for Navigator?

Jim: Our newest software product and the future of entertainment automation, iQ powered by NAVIGATOR.

KP: I guess I should have seen that one coming. I know your email has been flooded with inquiries about iQ ever since the launch at LDI; so, let’s get to it! Tell me everything we need to know about iQ powered by NAVIGATOR.

Jim: iQ combines the power of Navigator with an intuitive interface to simplify the user experience and maximize the creative flexibility in live events. It is designed to easily program motion, sound, video and cameras within a single UI as well as optimize workflows to enhance the deeper functionality of live events. The idea for iQ focused on simplifying the user experience while operating a show by providing not only a more practical interface but by also providing online training that is available anytime, anywhere. Having online training available at the palms of your hands serves as a real advantage to users because they can master the ins-and-outs of iQ quickly and efficiently which allows users to adapt to the ever-changing creative demands of a show.

KP: Ok, so is iQ capable of meeting the needs of our clients among all of our markets: Concert Touring, Theatre, Permanent Installations, Kinetic Architecture, Spectaculars, Film + TV, Corporate Events + Brand Activations?

Jim: So, Navigator GUI software is currently capable of operating in all of our markets. However, for our iQ software, it is the ideal software for theatres, cruise ships, universities, corporate and brand activations as well as temporary installations. As Navigator continues to evolve, we are forecasting that iQ will grow to be an essential tool for each of our markets. We continue to see success within the iQ software as we test it with the bigger, more powerful automation functions. Eventually, we intend for iQ to surpass what the Navigator GUI can do.

KP: So, when you say Navigator GUI do you mean Navigator Platform?

Jim: No, and I am glad that you asked this. Navigator GUI is our software that runs on the Navigator Platform. iQ is the next generation software that also runs on our Navigator Platform.

KP: Do you have to be an experienced Navigator user to use iQ?

Jim: Absolutely not! And, that is what is so great about iQ. It is so simple to learn and to operate. The goal is to make it easier for people to register, get trained and learn the interface.

KP: Alright, I am sold! I want to be the next iQ expert! How would I get started?

Jim: Well, we have a few training options for you to get started. The fastest way to learn is via our online training. With our online training, you can master the future of entertainment automation anytime, anywhere and be part of our interactive learning portal and community.

KP: Oh, how cool! I am sure having access to an online learning community will be really beneficial for our automation techies and roadie friends. I am wondering though, how is iQ’s training different than Navigator University?

Jim: Navigator University has been focused on in-person training of the Navigator GUI.  In-person training is great, however, it is not available to nearly as many people as we would like.  Since we use Navigator all over the world, it is not always convenient to get a trainer in front of everyone using the platform.  While iQ’s training will not replace Navigator University, by being online it will allow people to start to learn about iQ before owning a system or participating in an in-person training course. iQ’s online training opportunities gives users access to an interactive learning portal which hosts live online training courses with Navigator experts, provides simulated software activities, shares interactive video tutorials, the latest product releases and gives you access to an online Navigator community filled with iQ students participating in iQ courses.

KP: And, how about support? I know our Support team has been working on a customer support system. Can you explain what support options we have?

Jim: Sure! TAIT provides 24-hour support packages for all of our customers. The support benefits include a dedicated support manager, unlimited support via phone, email and customer portal, and access to TAIT’s online knowledge base.

KP: Alright Jim – you have me convinced, iQ is great! Seriously, by the sounds of this, iQ is going to be a game-changer in the live event industry. When do you expect for us to start seeing iQ in action?

Jim: Actually, iQ made its debut at the 2017 American Music Awards this past November (2017). For the show, iQ automated all of the TAIT gear that tracked the video screens on and off the stage. The AMA’s were an excellent example of iQ in action! As we move forward in 2018, I think it’s safe to say that iQ will be more common in TAIT projects and we expect to have it available for rent/purchase by Q3 of 2018.

KP: Jim, Thank you so much for chatting with me today about the Navigator Automation Platform.

Jim: No, thank you! It’s been fun. If you’re reading this and have questions, please feel free to contact me at iq@taittowers.com!

For more information about the Navigator Automation Platform, click here.

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