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Smarter, Faster, Better: The Brave New World of Business Collaboration

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by David Kung, VP Business Development, Oblong Industries

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To get the best results for your business, you need a team of people that can effectively work together to share their ideas.

But having teams in disparate geographical locations creates a challenge; how to collaborate effectively and productively? How to get real work done in today’s work environment where everyone is more mobile, teams are more distributed, and decision-making is more decentralized?

Effective collaboration is not just key, it’s critical. It can’t happen without the right tools and the right access for team members to contribute, regardless of their location or device.

The Challenge

Unfortunately, many of the rooms, tools, and AV systems we use today fall short of our needs. We still operate in environments that privilege presentation to the detriment of collaboration. Why be presented to, when it would be so much more compelling to actively participate?

Conventional video conferencing has been a critical enabler of collaboration thus far. Already there is a wide array of products focused on improving our abilities to see and hear one another. However, what’s been missing are tools and infrastructure to improve our abilities to work together. Video solves the problem of seeing each other, but it doesn’t solve the problem of seeing, engaging in content and moving things forward.

The majority of meeting rooms feature a single video display capable of viewing a single device, often displaying a single document or presentation. While this situation is extremely valuable for the sharing of information by a sole presenter, it has created adverse impacts. Presentation decks turn meeting participants into passive audiences and in many cases, presentation decks have become a proxy for actual work. By limiting the number of devices that can be shared simultaneously, meeting rooms are limiting opportunities for true collaboration. Such meeting spaces are still a one way street.

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The Solution

Just over a decade ago, MIT Media Lab computer scientist John Underkoffler envisioned the computer interfaces for the Hollywood film “Minority Report”. These are, famously, groundbreaking gestural systems operating with high fidelity at high speed and providing access to a panoply of data simultaneously. Underfkoffler was fascinated by the challenge of how to make computers more flexible, capable, useful, interactive, and empowering – and so has since set about bringing the Minority Report sci-fi technology to real-life situations.

Underkoffler and his team spent the ensuing years developing Oblong’s Mezzanine™. They designed a next-generation, collaborative platform to enable users to connect, participate and contribute across a shared digital workspace in a natural and intuitive way. Mezzanine is a spatial, networked, multi-user, multi-screen, multi-device computing environment; the driving factor in more efficient, productive and compelling meetings. The Mezzanine system provides a common workspace for multiple participants to share their image, voice, devices, and data simultaneously. The ability to simultaneously view more than a single device alone is transformative.

As an example, a team may spend hours, if not days, collecting data and crafting a deck for a senior executive. Inevitably, the executive may request a change or an opportunity to view additional background data. With only a presentation, and without the tools and data the team uses every day to do their work, the team’s ability to respond is mitigated and the cycle repeats itself as they collect the necessary information for the next meeting.

With Mezzanine, a team is no longer limited by funneling their expertise into a single document. They can bring their devices, their data, their work - into a meeting session. Meetings become more productive and time spent creating and updating presentations or rehashing content can now be spent on meaningful work.

Improving in-room collaboration is critical, but true business innovation can happen when collaboration is empowered across geographically distributed teams. Multiple participants across multiple locations often need to see each other’s work simultaneously, and not waste time swapping cables or virtually exchanging access privileges to share desktops. Mezzanine’s workspace can be shared between four different locations and dozens of devices at once. Oblong call this experience Infopresence™.

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The Mezzanine workspace is fully accessible to all participants - Infopresence is not the mirroring of one workspace to other locations. Every individual and device is an equal citizen an in Infopresence session with full ability to command and contribute to a shared pane of glass. It’s a more dynamic and democratic way to connect and communicate.

A Holistic Approach

Crucially Underkoffler and his team considered a fully holistic perspective, considering people, technologies, and spaces, both real and virtual, to develop Mezzanine. It is this seamless blend of physical and digital environments which makes Mezzanine so compelling; giving users authentic peer to peer collaboration - effectively accelerating a company’s ability to share content, boost productivity and unlock innovation.

About Oblong Industries

Oblong Industries’ innovative technologies change the way people work, create, and communicate. With roots in more than two decades of research at the MIT Media Lab, Oblong’s flagship product, Mezzanine™, is a collaborative conference room solution that defines the next era of computing: multi-user, multi-screen, multi-device, multi-location. Mezzanine’s groundbreaking Infopresence™ capabilities multiply the effectiveness of distributed organizations and catalyze new, more effective, more collaborative workflows. Oblong is headquartered in Los Angeles and supplies Mezzanine systems to Fortune 500 enterprise customers and reseller partners.

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