On collaborating with mimes

Work Windows is a collaboration system developed at Accenture Technology Labs. It answers the question: What if you built a collaboration tool and no one learned to use it?

Work Windows is a collaboration system developed at Accenture Technology Labs. It answers the question: What if you built a collaboration tool and no one learned to use it? This is an important question, since nobody really wants to learn collaboration software; they just want to collaborate.

So What?

Work Windows addresses the training problem by combining videoconferencing and shared documents in a unique physical framework. A user stands before a 4-foot by 4-foot screen out of which another user (perhaps in Bangalore) stares owlishly back. Camera placement is such that participants can actually meet one another's eyes (there's a trick that's done with holographic glass).

The real magic starts when a document (perhaps a data model) is translucently superimposed on the screen "between" the two participants. At that point, they can interact by literally pointing at parts of it and talking ("Let's move this to here, and that over there."). The illusion of pointing is such that when your colleague pushes her finger into the glass on her side, mime-like, you can see her fingerprint smushing into the glass on your side. (And if you run out of fingers, noses also work.)

This is a system that requires no training--just walk up, say Hello, make eye contact (which enhances trust, by the way), speak, and point. There are quibbles you could raise: It could probably use a keyboard, for example. Also, the person on the other side tends to look like she's floating in an algae-choked aquarium (something to do with the holographic glass), but if you can get past that it's all very natural. In fact, visitors who try the system are uniformly shocked...at just how ordinary it seems.

Full disclosure: Work Windows is a prototype; it is not available in stores. If you're interested in learning more, please get in touch with Kelly Dempski, its co-inventor.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All