Mezzanine in Action: The Innovation Lab
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Companies don’t earn a spot on the Fortune 500 list—and keep it—by resting on past accomplishments. Innovation is essential.
That’s why a number of Fortune 500 companies in recent years have opened up innovation labs: those small, brainy research and development centers tasked with developing new products and services—or even an entirely new corporate culture.
These innovation labs are sometimes located far from corporate headquarters, in specific geographic areas noted for their cluster of innovative talent: think Silicon Valley, or the Boston area.
The goal for these "outpost innovation labs", as Industry Analysts call them, is to create innovative products and practices, and then ship them back to corporate headquarters.
But how best to accomplish this goal? How do you make sure the innovation that you’ve worked so hard to create doesn’t get trapped inside the outpost? How do you make sure it successfully travels back to headquarters in a way that it can be fully understood and absorbed, so that it can be implemented or productized?
Now, we’re legally sworn to protect their identities, so we can’t tell you who these companies are, but we can tell you some of the ways they’re using and benefiting from Mezzanine in their innovation labs.
- Co-innovate across great geographical distances.
When teams use Mezzanine, they can interact with video, data, and devices in a shared workspace that bridges distances. This type of fluid collaboration is what enables an energy company headquartered in the Middle East, for example, to more effectively leverage the mathematical analyses and gasses research of its Advanced Research Center in Boston.
- Communicate innovative ideas—in any language.
One large telecommunications company installed Mezzanine as a way to ease the language barrier between its California-based innovation lab and its Asian head office. After all, a picture’s worth a thousand words–and when you have a full Mezzanine triptych of screens plus digital corkboards, you can not just display a lot of images, you can annotate, organize, highlight, and present them in ways that get a point across in any language.
- Transfer innovation in both directions.
Innovation can happen anywhere in an organization, of course: the outpost labs don’t have a monopoly on bright ideas. We’ve seen several Fortune 500 companies install multiple Mezzanine systems across their geographically distributed operations to create an Infopresence Fabric that allows ideas to easily flow in both directions: from the lab to headquarters, and from headquarters to the lab.
Innovate your workspace:
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.