I have this nightmare: I’m in a long, pitch-black tunnel, writes Andrew Everard.

There are people in front of me in the gloom, so I can’t run and escape; more behind me prevent me fleeing back into the sunlight I just left. The electronic voice intoning seemingly random words suggests it’s not a birth flashback: as I pass one of sources of sound it says: ‘vibe… vibration… vibrator’. So it’s hopefully not a birth flashback, as that would be far too traumatic.

Welcome to the world of V: Pioneer’s Vision of the future. As we take our seats in the auditorium into which we’ve emerged, a Dark Side of The Moon heartbeat starts thudding, then on the screen a countdown starts running. It reaches zero and – umm, nothing actually, at least for a few seconds that seem like hours.

 

And then we’re off, into a presentation full of allusions to Rome not being built in a day – did I mention we’re in Rome? –, people with ‘Infomanagement’ in their job titles, and comparisons between a US company offering dolls custom-made to replicate your child and the display calibration standards set by the Imaging Science Foundation. It’s all about giving the customer just what they want, apparently, and making your product distinctive.

More after the break

 

All the Pioneer staff are clad head to foot in black, people in black boiler suits with  ‘we are the future’ on the back are wandering around snapping pictures, and the location of the event appears to be a conference centre/catholic seminary, so by now we’re getting a little disoriented. The guy sitting beside me is frantically changing lenses on his camera in order to leap up and take a picture of each new PowerPoint slide as it flashes on the screen, the chap on the other side has been dozing since that heartbeat started and is now snoring quietly.

 

Now we’re into a vaguely 1950s Italian movie pastiche, designed to sum up the spirit of The Vision. ‘My name is Michael Tiger’ announces the narrator – Michael Tiger? I thought for a second he might have said ‘Michael Tiber’, in another slick allusion to where we are, but no – a picture of a tiger flashes on the screen, and then he’s telling us how he met and fell in love with the beautiful ‘V’, and saw her name everywhere, mainly in grainy shots of the letter in various logos.

 

And still that heartbeat is going in the background: ‘ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum…’, taking the idea of the high concept product launch – except we haven’t actually heard anything about the product yet – to new extremes.

 

Finally the moment of unveiling, and two sets slide slightly shakily onto the stage and spring into life. They looked quite nice, really…

 

That night, on the last flight of the evening back to Heathrow, the bloke sitting next to me asks me how long I’ve been in Rome. He’s sharply dressed, and his partner flicks idly through the fashion pages of a magazine before she falls asleep over her tray table, in a decidedly non-upright position.

‘Just overnight’ I reply.

‘Sightseeing?’

‘Business’

‘What do you do?’

I tell him.

‘Oh, we were thinking of buying a Pioneer plasma – we’re just renovating a 1930s flat, and we want to put it over the fireplace. Will it be too heavy?’

I suggest he’ll probably be OK, but he should get an installer or builder to check it out first. Dull but sensible advice – I’m tired.

‘So how much are the new Pioneers, anyway?’

‘Well, they’re positioned at the upper end of the market’ I say, not wanting to tell him about Michael Tiger if I can possibly avoid it.

He pauses, then

‘OK, so what’s a good LCD for about a grand?’