We Love LA
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Silicon Valley web site Sandhill.com recently asked us why we’re headquartered in Los Angeles. Sure, the Silicon Valley certainly can be the right choice for some startups; but based on what we do and what we value, there’s no better place than Los Angeles. It boils down to four key reasons for why we chose downtown LA for our global headquarters (by Mary Ann Norris).
The heritage. LA has a long history of melding design and technology to realize big ideas. Professional filmmaking was born in Hollywood. The aerospace industry grew up in Los Angeles. That spirit of big ideas is still alive today with us and our LA neighbors like SpaceX, which are using the powerful mixture of design and technology to create exhilarating innovation. The infrastructure for startups also has been given tremendous support by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration pursuing smart initiatives to make Los Angeles a vibrant, welcoming home for entrepreneurs.
You can especially see the art-technology heritage come to life in the Arts District where Oblong is located. One of the largest art galleries in the world recently opened just across the alleyway from our offices. It’s incredibly inspiring for us to work where artistry and industry meet, and for us to carry on the city’s rich history.
The talent. LA is home to some of the world’s top universities — including Caltech, UCLA, USC, Occidental College, Harvey Mudd College, and ArtCenter College of Design — along with more than 100 other accredited colleges and universities. Plus, LA has more engineering graduates than any other county in the U.S.
It’s a treasure trove of the best minds in the tech industry and beyond. It’s where game-changers from all over the globe convene in a dynamic international community. We get to draw on all of that talent and work with other visionaries who share our mission to create meaningful, capable, durable and beautiful products and solutions.
The access. It’s undeniable that California has a high cost of living; Silicon Valley is an extreme example of this. By contrast, the greater LA area is quite varied in its housing options. Our office is conveniently located close to public transportation, so we’re able to attract talent from affordable communities in the broader LA area, which are just a train ride away.
When we started Oblong, the Arts District in LA also gave us access to large, affordable warehouse spaces that we needed to build solutions at architectural scale, so we had room to dream big, create and grow.
The culture. The revolving-door mentality that can infiltrate Silicon Valley startups is not prevalent in LA culture. The tendency to job-hop every couple of years just isn’t characteristic of our talent pool. By choosing LA, we’ve been able to enjoy strong stability in our employee base that I believe would not have been possible in Silicon Valley.
Los Angeles has always been on the cutting edge with a reputation for outside-the-box innovation. The world has always looked to LA for the future to happen. We feel honored to be a part of that vision and reality.
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.