To understand and uniquely illustrate the positive impact that new cognitive computing technologies will have on industries and professions, collaborative conference room solutions and customized technologies from Oblong Industries were selected by IBM for inclusion in its new Client Experience Center at Watson headquarters in New York City.
The Oblong technologies are part of an immersion experience IBM has created to help expose clients to the ways in which Watson is being applied across a variety of industry domains.
IBM’s Watson is a groundbreaking technology platform that represents a new era of computing based on its ability to interact in natural language, process vast amounts of Big Data to uncover new patterns and insights, and learn from each interaction.
On the 5th floor of the IBM Watson headquarters in the heart of Manhattan’s Silicon Alley, the one-of-a-kind experience center offers visitors an interactive, real-time collaborative environment.
The experience is built on g-speak, Oblong’s spatial operating environment (SOE) platform and networked systems that offer a truly immersive and responsive environment that sparks the imagination of visitors. “There’s a new level of complexity involved in today’s data-intensive decision-making tasks; what’s required to understand and address it is the collaborative, full-room approach to interaction that Oblong's spatial computing platform can deliver,” said Oblong CEO John Underkoffler. “Our work with IBM is helping them share the power of cognitive computing with audiences from around the world who can now better visualize how Watson can transform their organizations.”
“Information surrounds us. It is everywhere. But we find it impossible to keep up, to read all that we should. Watson makes connections and learns from massive amounts of digital knowledge, helping us become better professionals,” said Dario Gil, Director of Symbiotic Cognitive Systems at IBM. “Oblong's solutions are helping IBM expose opportunities for our clients.” The g-speak SOE also underlies Oblong’s flagship product, Mezzanine, a conference room collaboration solution which is favored by global innovators and industry disruptors alike, and is available to experience first-hand at one of our demo centers.
Based in part on the success of our contributions to the IBM THINK Lab R&D facility in Yorktown Heights, which included bespoke implementations of g-speak alongside Mezzanine for its connected conference rooms, IBM evolved its approach to the Watson Astor Place project. What was first envisioned as a more classic museum-style installation transformed into a truly immersive and responsive environment with the help of Oblong’s Client Solutions team.
The Watson Client Experience Center features a 41’ long wall of screens that mimic grand canvases and invite visitors to explore real-world instances of Watson at work in specific professions. An adjoining hexagonal “immersion room” includes 45 screens blanketing five walls, where Watson docents navigate oceans of data which wash over the space as Watson filters and presents weighted solutions to key problems.
Because the wall and the immersion room are spatially-aware and gesture-enabled via Oblong’s g-speak platform, it’s a seamless experience for IBM docents to point at content and direct it to various other screen surfaces such as table-tops nearby, or to deliver it to the adjoining Mezzanine “think tank” conference rooms with a toss of the wand. It is in these maker spaces where developers collaborate on new products and solutions. With Oblong technology in the room, everyone at the maker table can contribute information from their own laptops and devices simultaneously, and also layer in outside video teleconference feeds plus real-time streams from multiple applications and sources, including Watson.
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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.