Oblong at TED

Back in February, John Underkoffler guided TED conference attendees through a brief tour of several g-speak applications. The TED staff did a great job filming and editing the talk, which you can now watch on TED.com and on YouTube.

All of us at Oblong enjoyed this opportunity to show our code off to a theater full of technology enthusiasts. John demonstrates g-speak applications that our clients use every day. But several of those capabilities -- the scalable image navigation environment, the SQL data-diving interface, the gestural wand -- haven't previously been part of our public presentations. 

 As usual, technology development outpaces marketing and the future is here, just lumpy in distribution. 

John also talks about why we think it's time to transition to a new way of thinking about and using computers. And he tells the story of g-speak, describing some of his precursor work at the MIT Media Lab and for Minority Report

At the very end of the video you can see a bunch of us running around in the background taking everything offstage. We had set up a portable version of our typical four-screen, multi-user g-speak system, as well as a separate workstation and various cables patching us into the TED video and network infrastructure. We got everything out of the way and into the wings in just over three minutes. Parallelism of a different sort than we are usually concerned with!

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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