Raising the Bar: A New User's Perspective

Kate Davies joined Oblong Industries about a month ago. She tells us about her initial impressions, and gives some tips on how to maximize the Mezzanine experience. 

Last month, I joined Oblong as a UX Designer and Researcher. I was excited to get to know my new work environment, my colleagues and, of course, Mezzanine. 

Even in the whirlwind of my first week I couldn’t help but notice how different meetings were at Oblong than anywhere else I’ve worked. The meetings I attended were dynamic, collaborative and focused, and meeting participants were actively engaged with the content and driving the discussion forward. Even when remote colleagues were joining a meeting, it felt like they were right in the room with us. 

I wanted to start off strong in my new role, and seeing how active my colleagues were in meetings encouraged me to be more hands-on. I will admit to having a moment of nervousness the first time I picked up a wand in the middle of a meeting, but I jumped right in and put the content I wanted to discuss on screen – after all, the most important thing I’ve learned about Mezzanine is that it works best when everyone is contributing. Here are some of my other best practices (so far):

1. Make room for video. 

I love all the space Mezzanine offers, and one of my favorite things is that you don’t have to compromise between video and content. When I’m meeting with a remote colleague from one of Oblong’s other offices, I place the video conferencing feed on the right-most screen and use the others for the content we’re discussing. The ability to maintain a video connection during content-based discussions builds trust and allows me to form stronger working relationships with remote colleagues.

2. Share your screen. 

Screensharing with Mezzanine is seamless – I don’t have to wait for a cable, take turns or ask “Can everyone see my screen?” When I’m referencing a document that others could benefit from seeing, I just use Mezzanine Screencast to pull it up so everyone can follow along. Since my colleagues can share their screens at the same time, it’s easy to see all the relevant information in one view. It also helps to share meeting notes and action items in the workspace so everyone stays on the same page.

3. Bring your device, and participate! 

Devices aren’t distractions in Mezzanine meetings, they’re a means of engagement. The ability to upload content to the workspace at any time means my colleagues and I can all participate. The Handipoint Control feature in Mezzanine web allows me to point out something I like about a design even when I don’t have a wand, and Mezzanine mobile lets me view and annotate content from my iPad.

4. Pick up where you left off. 

For recurring meetings or specific projects, it’s great to be able to create a dedicated workspace that saves all my content. The design team at Oblong has a weekly meeting, and opening our workspace at the beginning of each session situates our discussion and reorients us to the topic at hand. Our workspace lets us pick right back up where we left off, and the portfolio reflects how our ideas have evolved over time.

As I’m getting started in my new role, I’d love to hear about your first impressions or how you’re using Mezzanine today. If you have feedback or want to tell me about your Mezzanine experience, please feel free to contact us.

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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