A Mezzanine Visit with TechCrunch

In the middle of 2011, we had the privilege of hosting MG Siegler (while he was still at TechCrunch) at an under-the-radar Oblong demo location in the Bay Area. We invited MG to see an early demo of our Mezzanine product, as well as to generally talk about the future of computing, which we at Oblong are always happy to do. 

As we near Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where we will be showcasing Mezzanine, we thought we would re-surface the article for those who are interested in a 3rd party look at the product. Although the TechCrunch story highlights a somewhat early version of Mezzanine's feature set, it's a nice sneak peek of what Oblong will be demonstrating at MWC. 

And if you’re interested in the quick summary, here’s a brief excerpt that gets to the core of Mezzanine's in-room collaboration use case:

The idea for Mezzanine is to get people in a room together in order to synthesize information in the most collaborative way imaginable. “We want to get everyone’s pixels in a shared workspace, where they collide,” [Kwin] Kramer says. “The key is to give everyone control over what’s happening,” he continues. And that means interacting with the data on the three main screens from your laptop, iPhone, iPad, directly on the screen with the wands, or even remotely via a device with a web browser.

Using these controls, anyone can rearrange data, push new data into the flow, highlight specific things, and queue stuff up to talk about later. Perhaps the best way to think about it is as a symphony of information that everyone in the room can conduct. Again, it’s a bit hard to describe, but when you see it, it just makes sense.

Working with Watson

The goal of each Watson Experience Center—located in New York, San Francisco, and Cambridge—is to demystify AI and challenge visitor’s expectations through more tangible demonstrations of Watson technology. Visitors are guided through a series of narratives and data interfaces, each grounded in IBM’s current capabilities in machine learning and AI. These sit alongside a host of Mezzanine rooms where participants further collaborate to build solutions together.

The process for creating each experience begins with dynamic, collaborative research. Subject matter experts take members of the design and engineering teams through real-world scenarios—disaster response, financial crimes investigation, oil and gas management, product research, world news analysis—where we identify and test applicable data sets. From there, we move our ideas quickly to scale.

Accessibility to the immersive pixel canvas for everyone involved is key to the process. Designers must be able to see their ideas outside of the confines of 15″ laptops and prescriptive software. Utilizing tools tuned for rapid iteration at scale, our capable team of designers, data artists, and engineers work side-by-side to envision and define each experience. The result is more than a polished marketing narrative; it's an active interface that allows the exploration of data with accurate demonstrations of Watson’s capabilities—one that customers can see themselves in.

Under the Hood

Underlying the digital canvas is a robust spatial operating environment, g‑speak, which allows our team to position real data in a true spatial context. Every data point within the system, and even the UI itself, is defined in real world coordinates (measured in millimeters, not pixels). Gestures, directional pointing, and proximity to screens help us create interfaces that more closely understand user intent and more effectively humanize the UI.

This award-nominated collaboration with IBM is prototyped and developed at scale at Oblong’s headquarters in Los Angeles as well as IBM’s Immersive AI Lab in Austin. While these spaces are typically invite-only, IBM is increasingly open to sharing the content and the unique design ideas that drive its success with the public. This November, during Austin Design Week, IBM will host a tour of their Watson Immersive AI Lab, including live demonstrations of the work and a Q&A session with leaders from the creative team.

Can't make it to Austin? Contact our Solutions team for a glimpse of our vision of the future at our headquarters in the Arts District in Los Angeles.

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