by: Yann Gourvennec
In the following video presentation, you will discover the so-called MIT digital drawing board complete with geometrical recognition and simulation of movements. Everybody on the Internet or so seems to have seen this video, and a lot of bloggers have liked it and commented on it.
Taken at face value, I must admit that this video is quite impressive and I even started to imagine what this could do to the world of design and Marketing. I suspected that there would still be a fair amount of development to do if one wanted to design a fully-fledged vehicle for instance with a tool like this, but if it existed, it sounded pretty clear to me that this kind of intelligent recognition technology is offering a lot of new possibilities to designers and engineers alike. Marketeers could have also been interested in order to test new ideas in front of potential clients. But is this video so impressive and besides, what did it have to do with the MIT altogether?
French-speaking blogger Pierre Vandeginste on his site “aïetech” thinks he has the answer to that question and his opinion is quite straightforward. Here is a rough translation of some of Vandeginste’s points:
- First of all, Vandeginste is amazed by the fact that most commenters think that this video shows state-of-the-art interactive boading technology whereas in fact it looks very old. Weird,
- The video is labelled as if the drawing board was an MIT, but there are no traces to be found on MIT’s website of a ‘digital drawing board’ of that kind. Even weirder,
- If this video is 10-15 years old, then the simulation of the chariot that slides down the hill - Vandeginste goes on commenting - is rather impressive. However, it looks like it’s a well-prepared, maybe too well prepared demo. Vandeginste believes that some up-to-date games are performing better than that. Weirder and weirder,
- What commenters seem to be most amazed at in this ‘digital drawing board’ is the screen, but Vandeginste argues that this kind of tools has been available for donkeys’ years and he could even trace its usage in remoter country grammar schools in the Auvergne where the proACTIVboard by Promethean is used at the Lycée Blaise Pascal at Ambert (a rural area in the Auvergne) or at the vocational Lycée Professionnel Marie Curie in Nogent sur Oise (in Picardy, an other rural area). Vandeginste could even quote French TV Channels 1 and 2 in the following 2005 link: TF1 & France 2. Even weirder,
- Vandeginste is a freelance journalist who specialises in High Tech and has been working on such subjects for the past 30 years. He saw that kind of contraptions for the first time in 1993 at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC). Mark Weiser (late PARC researcher who died in 1999, and much regretted ever since, inventor of the Ubiquitous Computing concept. A researcher I have admired for decades) and his team had been working on the LiveBoard concept. The marketing of Liveboard had been spun off into the LiveWorks subsidiary since 1992.
- Last but not least, Vandeginste quotes better andmore uptodate examples such as the Mitsubishi DiamondTouch which is available for purchase now. (see MERL video here)
So what is this video telling us on innovation?
First, it’s telling us that Vandeginste is a very knowledgeable journalist. Yet, many of us weren’t in business in 1993 and are not aware that previous attempts at creating interactive drawing-boards had existed. On the contrary, most commenters on the Internet - many of them very technology savvy by the way - were impressed when they saw that video. I suppose that what this story tells us about innovation is that innovation - like beauty - is in the eyes of the beholder. Even though Vandeginste must be right, many of our Internet friends would like to know more about that product/concept. The fact is that - like it or not - if you are not working in that obsure little school in rural France you are most likely to find such a concept different and interesting anyway. What this story tells us too is that people never check the sources of the documents they pick up from the Internet, but that we knew already …