Ushering in the Future of Visual Collaboration
MultiTaction CEO, Pete Malcolm, recently sat down and spoke with CIO Review magazine about the future of Visual Collaboration and the exciting things happening at MultiTaction HQ.
MultiTaction’s solutions are the culmination of 10 years of research and innovation. The company has its roots at the Helsinki Institute of Information Technology, where a group of researchers were studying advanced user interfaces. The outcome of the project was a unique piece of optical touch recognition technology that can respond to fingers, hands, infrared pens and other objects. MultiTaction leverages this technology alongside its visual collaboration software to deliver the next era of interactive environments.
Organizations are collecting more data than ever before, but making sense of that data and turning it into actionable insights is the real challenge. MultiTaction’s software platform is able to source significant amounts of data and content from disparate systems and devices, and bring it all together into a single interactive wall —the iWall. This allows team members to work collaboratively, socialize ideas, and bring project timelines and team creativity to life. With the aggregated big data, the iWall becomes a next generation ‘whiteboard’ that helps organizations turn data into valuable insights. It is a playground for users to navigate, and share a single pane view of the organization’s entire operation, with the ability to transform the data and add value through real-time collaboration.
“Our solution, both the hardware as well as the software, can be termed as an interwoven form of presentation, visualization, and collaboration for the enterprise world,” cites Pete Malcolm, CEO of MultiTaction. With the power of the multi-touch technology, MultiTaction enables enterprises to collaborate in a ‘NASA-like’ control room where numerous users from multiple locations offload content from their own devices and display the entirety of content on a single large screen. This enables the organizations to collectively look at the ‘big picture’ of their data and facilitates co-constructive decision-making in an efficient manner.
“Touch is one area where all age groups can collaborate. It is the one interactive technique that bridges gaps in global, multicultural, and multigenerational workforces. With this in mind, our customers find the value of our technology in creating new workplaces that are global, smart and collaborative,” These new workplaces not only accelerate employee engagement and collaboration activities but also serve as intuitive channels to showcase various possibilities to one's clients.
It is indeed quite fascinating that the same technology also powered CBS's ‘Candy Crush Show,' where the popularity of the smartphone game is brought to a life-sized setup before a live audience. The idea of contestants suspended vertically on harnesses working together on a 25-foot touch screen to move torso-sized candies was not an easy one to bring to life. MultiTaction, however, took up the challenge of building the game board with 55 ‘MT cells’ each having 55-inch ‘multi-touch’ screens that eventually bagged them Guinness World Record for the largest touch display ever built. Malcolm reckons that MultiTaction’s mastery of the hardware built with its optical touch recognition technology has been complemented by the powerful capabilities of its collaboration software—taking the iWall to newer dimensions in enterprise collaboration arena.
Software that Delivers Next Era Engagement
iWall’s quick rise to fame a decade ago triggered a growing need among MultiTaction’s customers for software that facilitates greater possibilities for collaboration. To this end, the company’s original presentation solution—Experience—evolved to MT Showcase, fitted with a web editor that allows customers to easily build and edit their content on-the-fly without the typical need for third party content consultants. MultiTaction followed it up with MT Canvus, a solution that helps add content automatically by consolidating and organizing enterprise-wide data from a multitude of systems and devices onto the multitouch screen hardware or device displays.
MultiTaction’s collaboration software allows up to 50 users log in to a single screen at a time in order to add, edit, navigate, visualize, and share content simultaneously.
MT Canvus’ ability to consolidate data from multiple sources and visualize it on multiple iWalls was a useful exploit for Flex, the company that designs and builds solutions to connect distributed business facilities. MultiTaction was chosen to build the ‘Flexitron,' a curved iWall consisting of twenty-two ‘MT cells.' These 55-inch touch screens displayed data from 14 different systems, helping a widely dispersed workforce in Flex visualize their entire ecosystem consisting of technology manufacturers, software and application providers, research institutions, universities, and Flex innovation labs.
The collaboration between Flex’s over 200,000 professionals from across 30 countries was made easy, efficient, and intuitive by MultiTaction’s collaboration technology.
“We enable ideation, so our clients can develop and communicate their ideas in real time across global locations,” says Malcolm
Enabling Real-Time Global Collaboration
MT Canvus Connect addresses the next stage of collaboration, taking the aggregated data from Canvus and distributing it across users, geographies, and devices around the globe. Canvus Connect provides the real-time relay of content and the actions performed on one screen to all others. Annotations, navigations, and live/recorded video in the 24k resolution are synchronously displayed across iWalls, and devices like laptops and tablets, with low latency. “Our advanced interactive touch screen technology support the growing BYOD trend and the need for users to share real-time data from multiple sources on a single large viewing area—this
is particularly powerful in big data projects that our all our corporate clients are wrestling with,” says Malcolm.
Malcolm reckons that this capability is similar to that of today's web conferencing solutions, but instead of just live videos that are at the mercy of local bandwidth, MT Canvus Connect can instantaneously share a variety of content-rich media across their customers’ environments. Moreover, the company allows its customers to place the servers and their data wherever they wish, and hence, remain in control of their firewalls, server performance, and bandwidth.
“We have amazingly low bandwidth requirements since we aren’t based on the number of users and what they do with our software. MT Canvus replicates content and assets beforehand, and even if high-resolution videos are played across multiple board rooms, the system will not bat an eyelid," highlights Malcolm. As a result, even if users leave and rejoin sessions, the current state of content on the multi-touch screen is instantly synchronized with their displays, and also allows them to zoom and shrink objects independently on their screens.
Taking Visualization to the Next Dimension
The actions triggered by touch instances can easily be configured with MT Canvus, and this is where the optical recognition technology attains full fruition. Fitted with an array of infrared cameras, MultiTaction’s screen can detect oncoming objects, such as hands, fingers, pens, and other objects. The ability to not only sense touch but also sense what object is on the smart surface, or even if an object is approaching it, empowers customers to create correlations between the real and virtual world. For instance, sticky labels can be generated for products, and when the product is placed on the multi-touch screen, the barcode or QR code is read to identify the product and perform an associated action, such as updating the inventory status in the ERP, or provide shipping information for the product.
A kitchen décor company in Belgium uses iWall as a horizontal table surface and develops virtual kitchen designs by placing appliances and cabinets on the surface. A code at the bottom of the placed object instantly provides information regarding its identity and size, helping the system develop a three-dimensional rendering of the design, as well as a complete job list of cabinets, fittings, and other items required to execute the design. Recently, the company has capitalized on the technology’s ability to recognize wrist orientation, which is key for determining what side of the table the user is located. This ensures that text is oriented to the user, which allows team members to work on opposite sides of the table. The design company is able to have its entire team collaborate over a single surface that displays a larger perspective of data to each of them and helps the team streamline their designs in a collaborative manner.
As is evident from the cutting edge capabilities provided by MultiTaction to its customers’ collaboration environments, an ever-growing focus on innovation in the company is complemented by a highly agile and creative engineering team led by Malcolm. His entrepreneurial background ensures that he stays ahead of the game with his problem-solving abilities, and he encourages the same spirit in his team. MultiTaction establishes a ‘growth culture' attitude that has a mixed approach. As a manufacturer that serves the needs of a global customer base, the company has a relentless focus on the quality of both products as well as its services, and the employees have a rich background in terms of knowing how to scale technology to tackle business problems systematically. A proponent of next-gen visual collaboration and touch technology, MultiTaction heralds cross-functional creativity outlined by a fun and transparent work environment.
As a result, MultiTaction’s innovation gears are constantly driving for better performance both in hardware as well as software realms. The company constantly strives for brighter, more power efficient screens with higher resolution in optical recognition and narrower bezels. On the software end, the company is laser-focused on breaking down collaboration barriers for their customers, helping them avoid the hassles of traditional visual collaboration technology. MultiTaction now has its eyes on three-dimensional optical recognition, breaking down the proverbial ‘fourth wall' of their multi-touch intelligent surface. “The possibilities are endless, and we will continue working to exploit them. We are now looking at the world where office walls come tumbling down, and this puts MultiTaction at a perfect position to help organizations cope with a transformation in their collaboration environments,” concludes Malcolm.