Our Collaborative Computing Future: Oblong’s Mezzanine

When people think of futuristic user interfaces (Forrester analysts included), they often invoke the 2002 Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. The imagery in the movie offers a compelling vision of how next-generation technologies – gestural control, voice command, 3D visuals, multi-screen interactions – can empower computing experiences.

Where did Minority Report get this vision? From a man named John Underkoffler, Chief Scientist at a company called Oblong. He designed the computer interfaces in the film.

I had the pleasure of visiting Oblong’s Boston office recently, where I saw demonstrations of several technologies. Most interesting to me was the company’s Mezzanine offering, an “infopresence” conference room that the company sells to enterprises today.

The solution involves equipping a conference room (or multiples – it works as a long distance telepresence location) with a number of monitors (5 in the room I visited), teleconferencing equipment (industry standard products work well), and ceiling-mounted sensors (for interpreting gestural controls), and a whiteboard (a physical one, but visible to a camera). Workers control the room with a wand, which works via both gestural controls and a button.

Putting all of these things together, workers can collaborate both within the room itself and with remote teams (or remote individual team members). The resulting experience, in my view, offers two sets of benefits:

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