In the MIT News
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MIT News’ Rob Matheson did a deep dive on the Mezzanine platform for a recent piece, explaining how Oblong Industries brings gesture-control technology and the notion of “Infopresence” from the movie screen to corporate conference rooms.
Noted Rob, “The brain behind those Hollywood interfaces, MIT alumnus John Underkoffler ’88, SM ’91, PhD ’99—who served as scientific advisor for both films [Minority Report and Iron Man]—has been bringing a more practical version of that technology to conference rooms of Fortune 500 and other companies for the past year.”
He adds “Underkoffler’s company, Oblong Industries, has developed a platform called g-speak, based on MIT research, and a collaborative-conferencing system called Mezzanine that allows multiple users to simultaneously share and control digital content across multiple screens, from any device, using gesture control…The major benefit in such a system lies in boosting productivity during meetings. If you can make those meetings synthetically productive—not just times for people to check in, produce status reports, or check email surreptitiously under the table—that can be an electrifying force for the enterprise.”
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.