Oblong Industries Goes Global with BBC Broadcast


The team from BBC Click, the BBC’s flagship technology program, flew over from London to visit our HQ in LA. It was great fun hosting Click’s presenterSpencer Kelly and his team at our headquarters for a behind-the-scenes look at our work. We were delighted to see the visit featured in BBC Click’s “USA Special”, which was just broadcast globally on BBC World News.

In this episode, the BBC team visits our ‘warehouse’ lab, a restricted area where a lot of Oblong’s R&D magic takes place. This was the first time that a broadcast team -- or in fact any media -- has been admitted to this facility, so it was very exciting to showcase some of our pioneering work. With our own John Underkoffler hosting, the BBC team was soon living the future of UI with hands-on access to collaborative technology prototypes for data visualization and content interaction. You can hear Spencer describing his experience with one particular demo as “looking at something very sexy”! 

Of course, we couldn’t let the BBC leave without a demo of our award-winning workspace solution Mezzanine. Following a live Mezzanine link-up with Oblong’s New York office, Spencer comments; “Out go the one person presentation-style meetings and in come a kind of free for all, where anyone can show anyone… anything. Be it their own personal screen, or video feeds from the web, or live camera footage from in-office white boards.” Yes, the future is all about Infopresence.

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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