Beyond PowerPoint

It’s the 30-year anniversary of that ubiquitous business tool from Microsoft called PowerPoint.

Famously, it’s been cited in the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, banned from certain military operations, credited with the rise of soundbite-sized attention spans, and noted as generally driving the decline of western civilization by statistician and Yale professor emeritus Edward Tufte

 Wired on the other hand offered 29 points in its defense last year.

Author, educator, and broadcaster Ian Sansom decided to take a closer look for his podcast on BBC4 Radio. Yes, that would be an audio report on a visual medium. Nonetheless, it’s a fun listen. Here’s a link to the full “PowerPointless” story on the BBC iPlayer

Looking backward naturally invites the opportunity to look forward, and so as Ian Samson investigates where the world of business communication has been, he follows the thread to where it is headed. He lands of course on our doorstep, to experience our flagship product, Mezzanine. Here’s the clip on Ian Samson’s experience with this new and more brilliant and collaborative medium, starring our own Padraig Scully in our London office with John Underkoffler connected via Mezzanine in Los Angeles. Have a listen.



How is it possible the road beyond PowerPoint leads to Mezzanine?

Empowerment and democracy. 

The rise (and longevity) of PowerPoint illustrates both the power of graphical communications and the need to empower storytellers with a sort of modeling clay. This is a human-centered design notion, putting power into the hands of the people. This notion of empowerment is a central theme of the Mezzanine offering. Our technology fuels a content-based conversational democracy for collaborators, regardless of location, device, or content source-type. 


Collaboration mode, as opposed to presentation mode, really speaks to how conversations unfold. You show up with your stuff, I show up with mine; let’s get this done together. The future is moving from presentation to collaboration, from me to we, from prepared to contemporaneous, from canned to real time. It feels right. 

Multi-threaded and multi-tasking. 

The increasing speed of business begets both worker specialization and task complexity, which weighs heavily on the transaction of communication and collaborative problem-solving. We find ourselves thinking, working, communicating, and collaborating in parallel streams. Call it a tendency towards multi-tasking. In a business setting, it makes the traditional style of serial presentation almost unbearable. Mezzanine not only supports this multi-tasking parallelism and simultaneity, it scales for every space, team, use case. But, in the event you want to revert to a more old-fashioned presentation mode, you can still do that with Mezzanine. 

 2D computing giving way to 3D. 

As with PowerPoint, the visual aspect of Mezzanine is essential. But in keeping with the real world, Mezzanine understands that humans operate in three-dimensional space. At Mezzanine’s core is a spatial computing system called g-speak, which allows collaborators to command content across every surface in an architectural space. With the rise of new platforms like virtual reality for simulation and entertainment, and augmented reality for the annotated environment, it’s clear our digital future will be yet more immersive, spatial, and visual. This is exactly where the Mezzanine platform will feel the most natural. 

To move your organization beyond serial PowerPoint to a more multi-threaded and collaborative workflow, get in touch.

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.

Interested in Learning More?

Start a conversation with our team to deliver the best collaboration experience for your teaming spaces