Mary Ann de Lares Norris, VP EMEA of Oblong Industries, Inc. explains how the connected world is chaining the world of work forever as the cognitive room is born.

We’re entering a new era of collaborative work. As enterprises start to embrace the power of AI they are also reorganising their human teams to make the best use of this virtual team member.

AI makes sense of unstructured data, quickly organising it in a way that humans can understand and by taking away these more transactional tasks from the workforce, AI frees up time for employees to focus on the creative, big picture work – work that requires collaborative ideation. Teams need to come together in an environment that supports the creation of this higher order work and a cognitive collaboration room provides the ideal solution.

Mary Ann de Lares Norris, VP EMEA of Oblong Industries, Inc

Cognitive rooms for collaboration

Collaboration involves multiple visions, materials and people coming together simultaneously to solve problems. Enterprises cannot move forward within the boundaries of traditional one screen, one presentation meeting rooms as higher order work relies on the sharing and manipulation of ideas, in real time, to ascertain a quick and agreeable conclusion for all stakeholders.

Within a cognitive collaboration environment, participants should be able to interact with the room as it comes alive with data. You’re not just pushing a button to view the next slide delivered from one device – you are making sense of data streams from multiple devices all at once.  The most effective cognitive rooms are the places where work really gets done.

Humans need to look up to genuinely collaborate

Go forward to go back – next gen HMI

Gesturing and pointing are fundamental building blocks of the ‘human-centric’ Human Machine Interface (HMI), taking our natural human movements and incorporating them into an interface that is instantly familiar.

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany has recently been conducting studies in how and why humans point and how human pointing is markedly different from mammal pointing. Researchers have found that our mammal cousins point to issue a command such as ‘go and get that’ whereas humans will point to share an observation and direct joint attention to a subject. Thus, pointing for humans is an elemental part of collaborative work.

The importance of pointing to share insights or direct attention can be seen today in the pre-historic cave paintings of our ancestors. Our ancestors used the walls of caves to create massive visual canvases upon which they would tell their stories.

The Hall of Bulls cave paintings in Lascaux, France, offer a rich tapestry of such stories. Many of the images in the Hall of Bulls tower over the observer on the cave floor, necessitating pointing gestures on the part of the ‘story teller’ to draw attention to the narrative.

The cave paintings at Lascaux and other prehistoric sites also underscore how important a visual canvas is to us humans to make sense of our complicated world. Modern HMIs should capitalise on this very elemental human talent to take lots of varied visual input, digest it, and come to an understanding about the world based on a myriad of often disjointed visual cues.

Thus, as cognitive rooms become alive with data and provide a rich canvas for interaction, users should demand next-generation HMIs that call upon skills honed by us humans for millennia—after all, how long have we really been ‘hover over and right clicking’ anyway?

A place for the higher order creative work

With information stored across our devices we spend a lot of time looking down – in meetings this can mean there is no shared canvas as participants become absorbed in their own data. At Oblong we have developed Mezzanine, a series of immersive collaboration solutions to encourage people to look up and become totally immersed in shared data. Mezzanine technology allows multiple content streams from different devices to be displayed simultaneously on one shared visual canvas.

A Mezzanine room incorporates a gestural wand interface to manipulate the data on the shared canvas. Using familiar pointing gestures to reorder content and zoom in and out of key information, the wand enables a fluid interaction with the shared data, for an experience that is highly efficient and engaging.

Enterprises across the globe, including PwC, IBM and Inmarsat are already using gestural HMI in dedicated cognitive collaboration rooms, powered by Mezzanine, to boost creativity, productivity and sales.

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