During your company’s last budget summit, chances are the tools you used during the meeting were probably the same ones you’ve been using for years: Flip charts, whiteboards, Post-Its, Powerpoints and index cards. But with all the technological advancements of the last decade, doesn’t it seem like those tools are a little old-fashioned?
The designers at Haworth thought so. That’s why they teamed up with the a San Francisco-based tech company to create Bluescape, a digital interface that brings to life all that wow-inducing technology we lusted after on “Minority Report.”
“Bluescape is an infinite, collaborative workspace designed to accelerate decision-making by enabling anyone to create, communicate, visualize, organize, and strategize virtually anything, anywhere, anytime,” according to the Haworth website.
The cloud-based technology platform allows decision makers and teams to solve problems and communicate with each other from anywhere around the world via iPads, laptops and other mobile devices. But the centerpiece of the the product (and the most jaw-dropping part) is the wall-sized touchscreen made from 15 55-inch flat screen monitors each equipped with 32 sensors that can read a user’s hand movements.
While the technology isn’t available to purchase just yet, it’s already garnered a lot of buzz, nabbing the Best of Neocon 2013 Gold Aware and Best of Neocon 2013 Best of Competition last month in Chicago.
“The scale of this technology is just mind-blowing, that you can have such a large canvas to work with and so many people interacting with it,” Carnegie Mellon University entrepreneurship professor Stuart Evans told BusinessWeek. Stuart has been testing a Bluescape system in his classroom for more than a year now.
The concept for Bluescape was born in 2006 when Haworth’s own designers were reviewing the company’s seating portfolio. Small cards for each product were printed and pinned to a wall, allowing the designers to view all of the seating products at one place, at one time for the first time ever. However, the setup didn’t allow for designers to re-categorize or re-organize the products.
Flash forward to 2010 when a Haworth salesman called the designers to tell them about Obscura Digital, a tech company that specialized in large-scale, high-resolution, multi-touch display solutions. After meeting with the award-winning creative technology studio, Haworth knew it’d found the perfect partner for its foray into creating a brand-new type of business technology.
How Does it Work?
Bluescape attempts to knock down the silos that hinder traditional businesses, inhibiting connectivity and growth. With the software, users are given 160 acres of space (the equivalent of 146 football fields) on which team members can work together or apart. That’s a bit more room than that wall with photos pinned all over it.
The “digital ecosystem” features multitouch screens that can be used to share information and build ideas with an organic interface based on common activities like writing and erasing, enlarging and minimizing, moving objects and navigating (users should find a lot of the movements mimic how they’d interact with a smartphone). Users can share everything from blueprints to internet browsers to videos. All collaboration happens in real-time; any team member with an internet connection can participate in meetings remotely as their colleagues work on the physical wall.
Since the act of physically writing something can have more meaning than typing, Bluescape comes with a stylus that can be used like a pen and captures the users handwriting with line quality that’s better than a dry-erase marker on a whiteboard. The ability to electronically pin objects and add sticky notes also furthers the more familiar experiences of working on a project.
Rather than just see one thing at a time, users can view more information, from multiple datasets to graphs or photos, on a larger scale, allowing them to find patterns, trends, and relationships more readily.
Team members can feel free to share new ideas as they come, rather then waiting for the next meeting, which allows product creation to move faster. All projects can be developed, saved and referred to over and over, creating a virtual timeline of work. Each session is considered an intellectual property of the company and is securely saved for review anytime that’s needed.
Who’s Buying It
As of early May, there were nearly 30 potential customers testing Bluescape, according to Businessweek, including a film company, architectural firm, hotel chain and some manufacturers.
Companies interested in buying their own Bluescape better start saving their pennies.
Scott Poulton, Haworth’s vice president for strategic ventures and chief executive officer of the Bluescape subsidiary, told Businessweek that a basic setup with just a single monitor runs for around $30,000. For a larger setup, like the 15-screen version referenced earlier, you’ll pay upwards of $1 million.