Over the past several years, I’ve followed pretty much every new thing in the technology space, and written about many of them. But it’s hard not to get cynical when so much of what’s out there is not only not revolutionary, it’s often not even evolutionary. Instead, much of what I see is simply derivative and quite frankly, boring. But every once in a while something crops up that is truly game-changing. And it restores my faith in technology. That’s the best way to describe what I saw when I met with Oblong Industries this week.
The technologies that Oblong is working on are anything but derivative or boring — they are absolutely revolutionary. And they will shape the future of computing.
...Mezzanine is a spatial operating environment meant to be used in conference rooms and other large meeting areas. The peripherals vary, but the system I used consisted of three large screens front and center, two vertically-aligned screen on a wall to the right, a whiteboard to the wall on the left, and two cameras (one in front pointing at you, and one to the side pointing at the whiteboard). The main points of interaction are two “wands”, which I’ll explain more about in a bit. And the system works in concert with any device — meaning laptop, iPhone, iPad, etc — that is in the room and connected to the network as well.
The idea for Mezzanine is to get people in a room together in order to synthesize information in the most collaborative way imaginable... Using these controls, anyone can rearrange data, push new data into the flow, highlight specific things, and queue stuff up to talk about later. Perhaps the best way to think about it is as a symphony of information that everyone in the room can conduct. Again, it’s a bit hard to describe, but when you see it, it just makes sense.
This idea is so dumb I'm not sure I can find words.
But I'll try.
First: what's the business case? How does this help people make money? Uhm, far as I can tell, it doesn't. Hell, it's hard enough to justify getting a built-in projector in most SME conference rooms!
And, dude. Running some collaborative software on laptops using mice and avatars would seem to work just as well without quite as much... standing, gesticulating, and getting up all in my grill.
Sorry, but my personal take is that Oblong has created one of the failiest technologies ever.
As one wag noted: this will revolutionize computing the way the Segway revolutionized personal transportation.